TransAlta to close Washington's largest power plant Centralia coal-fueled facility by 2025

Source: Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, TransAlta

Gov. Chris Gregoire announced a proposed agreement has been reached with TransAlta to significantly reduce emissions from the company’s coal-fired power plant in the Centralia area. The agreement was negotiated by TransAlta, the state of Washington and members of the environmental community to ensure a transition to cleaner power while allowing the necessary time to provide economic stability to Southwest Washington.

"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," said Gov. Gregoire. "I encourage the Legislature to take timely action to ensure this agreement moves forward.”

In 2009, Gregoire signed an executive order directing the Department of Ecology to work with TransAlta to establish an agreed order that would apply the greenhouse gas emissions performance standards by no later than December 31, 2025.

The agreement moves up the performance standards for one of two boilers to Dec. 31, 2020 and the other boiler on Dec. 31, 2025.

“We’re pleased to see all parties agree on legislation that balances the interests of jobs, the economy, energy and the environment,” said Stephen Snyder, President and CEO of TransAlta. “This legislation meets our commitment to a low-carbon future through transition from coal to gas in Washington, significantly reduces our environmental risk and allows us to provide fair shareholder value through favorable long-term contracts while protecting jobs and the economy of the local community.”

Proposed Legislation

Senator Phil Rockefeller introduced an amendment which would incorporate the new agreement into SB 5769, which would establish the first coal-free date in law. This amendment includes:

• TransAlta will be allowed in the interim to sell coal power under long-term contracts within Washington – which will give the company the financial stability needed to transition to a cleaner source of energy;

• The plant’s two coal boilers will meet the state’s emissions performance standard for new and modified power plants, which will require the boilers to shut down. The standard will apply to one boiler on Dec. 31, 2020, and to the other boiler on Dec. 31, 2025 – essentially ending coal-fired power in Washington state in the next 14 years;

• In 2013, TransAlta will install additional air pollution control technology to further reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides at the plant. This technology is called selective non-catalytic reduction (SNCR). The TransAlta plant is the state’s largest single industrial source of nitrogen oxide emissions. Nitrogen oxides are one of the causes of visibility-limiting regional haze in national parks and on federal lands; and

• TransAlta agrees to contribute $30 million in a community investment fund to help with energy efficiency projects, as well as $25 million in an energy technology transition fund, which must be spent on supporting innovative energy technologies and companies in Washington state.

Centralia Coal-Fueled Power Plant 

Centralia Coal Plant is Washington State’s largest baseload power source; the reliable and steady supply of power from our operations is essential for keeping the west-coast electrical grid stable. Centralia Coal Plant has a net capacity of 1,376 megawatts and provides 10 per cent of Washington State’s power. 

The facility is a merchant plant, which means that costs such as environmental upgrades cannot be passed on to customers. TransAlta has invested more than US$300 million in pollution control technology at Centralia Plant, including scrubbers and low nitrogen dioxide burners. Today, the facility is one of the cleanest coal-fired power plants in North America. 

Fuel for Centralia Plant is delivered by train from the Powder River Basin in the U.S. Midwest. The plant’s coal unloading facility is considered one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly in North America.

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