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Sunday, March 6, 2011

TransAlta Deal Poised for Passage

One of the top four "Environmental Priority Bills" has come back in amended form in the State Senate and passed yesterday. A deal has been struck and the environmental community is celebrating a victory for clean air legislation.
Over 500 activists Gathered for Environmental Lobby Day
this February. The TransAlta Bill is one of four
Priority Bills targeted for passage this session.

According to Publicola, the TransAlta Coal Fired Plant, would be phased out entirely by 2025, and partially shut down by 2020. There would be funding to help local communities and contributions to clean energy technology from TransAlta to communities in WA State.
Sen Rockefeller (D-23) of Bainbridge Is, offered a "striker amendment" with a compromise between an stronger alternative bill offered by Marko Liias in the House, and a weaker version that had passed a Senate Committee. Local lawmakers from the Centralia area had signed on.

Perhaps the biggest news, though: The company has agreed to pay $55 million into an economic development fund starting in 2012 to help transition the community; the plant currently has 300 employees.
“It’s progress,” says Rep. Marko Liias (D-21, Edmonds), sponsor of an earlier, stronger, house version, which initially came with a $94 million fund (and ended the company’s $5 million annual tax break), but was replaced by Sen. Rockefeller’s original, neutered senate version, which kept the tax break in place and came without a clear transition fund or shutdown date.
Governor Chris Gregoire's office announced the agreement yesterday. She said in a statement,
“What a proud day for the Centralia community, and all of Washington state,” Gregoire said. “I congratulate all of the parties involved who worked in good faith, and spent countless hours to achieve this agreement. This compromise promises cleaner air for our future, while providing the necessary time to ensure economic stability, job protection and enough power on the grid to keep our homes and businesses running. I encourage the Legislature to take timely action to ensure this agreement moves forward.”

 The Environmental Priorities Coalition had fought for a strong bill to phase out this coal plant, which is the largest single contributor to greenhouse gases in the State. 

The Seattle PI quotes Craig Benjamin of the "coalition" on the agreement, "“Once in place, this makes a pretty big statement about the Northwest:  We are phasing out coal-burning power plants,” Craig Benjamin of the Environmental Priorities Coalition, told"

The PI says this deal shows "gives" on both sides. 

Environmental groups had sought shutdown of the coal boilers by 2015, with a possible extension to 2017.  The accord says the first boiler will go down on Dec. 31, 2020, and the second five years later.
Trans-Alta gets the ability and assurance to negotiate long-term power sales agreements while the coal-burning plant remains in operation.
But Trans-Alta has committed to install, by 2013, new pollution control technology to further reduce its nitrogen oxide emissions.
So it looks like a good season for Clean Air in Washington State!  

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