Energy Matters Update – October 1, 2008
Victory for clean energy activists:
Proposed Kalama coal plant off the table
After years of trying to sell its massively polluting proposed coal-powered plant as a clean power solution, Energy Northwest has finally thrown in the towel on the Pacific Mountain Energy Center (PMEC), the proposed 793-megawatt coal-powered facility in Kalama, Wash.
“We were working on PMEC,” Energy Northwest executive Jack Baker told Washington state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) on Sept. 9, “but it was not to be.”
Energy Northwest representatives told the Council they would instead submit a proposal for a 680-megawatt natural gas plant. “This will be a much cleaner, smaller project but with the same output,” said PMEC project manager Ted Beatty.
Ten months earlier, EFSEC had sided with clean-energy advocates and temporarily halted the siting process for the coal-powered facility.
Energy Northwest, the consortium of publicly owned utilities formerly known as the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS), had presented PMEC as a next-generation coal plant capable of capturing carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions which could then be permanently stored (“sequestered”) underground. However, Energy Northwest’s proposal to build the plant did not include construction of a CO2 capture facility.
NW Energy Coalition staff, members and allies protested that without capture and storage, PMEC would add significantly to the region’s global-warming pollution. Climate-protection goals became state law when Washington’s 2007 legislature passed Senate Bill 6001. The law requires new power plants in the state to emit no more CO2 than a modern natural gas-fired plant would emit, meaning PMEC’s emissions would have been about 40% over the limit. The law allows a plant such as PMEC as long as the developer produces a feasible plan for capturing and storing the excess emissions and makes a good-faith effort to implement that plan.
Energy Northwest neither produced a real plan nor demonstrated that it was making a good-faith effort to capture emissions. The NW Energy Coalition, the Sierra Club and the Washington Environmental Council — all represented by Earthjustice — and other organizations expressed that opinion in EFSEC proceedings and filings. Meanwhile, thousands of activists picked up the phone, dashed out letters and sent emails demanding an end to the siting process. The Council ultimately declared Energy Northwest had failed to produce a legal plan for capturing and storing much of the 6 million tons of climate-polluting CO2 the plant would have emitted.
Activists for clean energy created this historic victory. Congratulations and thanks to all who helped this region take another step toward a clean-energy future.