Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Beating Back the Coal Rush: Proposed Washington Coal Plant Halted!

No Coal!Great news from Washington state!

State energy facility siting regulators in Washington announced yesterday that they have halted permitting for a proposed coal-fired power plant near Kalama on the Columbia River in southwest Washington.

Before the state Energy Facility Siting Council will continue permitting the proposed coal gasification plant, the developers, Energy Northwest, must file a real plan for sequestering the greenhouse gas emissions the plant will emit, in accordance with a greenhouse gas emissions limit passed by the Washington legislature in 2007 (SB 6001),

The plan the developers initially filed essentially amounted to "well, we can't sequester emissions now but we'll figure out a plan to do it later." That doesn't cut it, the state Siting Council (reasonably) said.

This is a major set-back for the proposed plant - although it doesn't spell the end. If the developers come up with a real plan to sequester emissions, they could still build the power plant, which while more climate friendly, would still be coal-burning.

Washington's SB 6001 essentially sets an greenhouse gas emissions limit for any new power plants either in Washington, or outside the state but serving Washington customers, saying that they must be at least as clean as a state-of-the-art, high-efficiency natural gas plant. The bill essentially means no new coal plants for Washington!

However, the bill included a special provision for two coal plants that were already in the permitting and development process when the bill was passed: the Kalama plant, and another coal-gasification plant, the Wallula plant near Walla Walla, in southeastern Washington. If these plants are to be built, the law says, they must capture and sequester enough emissions to get below the emissions limit, or pay to reduce emissions at another power plant located in the western United States.

If either coal gasification plant - which use a newer technology that turns coal into cleaner-burning synthetic gas before burning it to make electricity, allowing some or all of the greenhouse gas emissions to be captured and stored underground - moves forward, it will either have to sequester roughly 60% or more of it's emissions, or pay to reduce a corresponding amount of emissions at another power plant in the western U.S, as required by the state law, Senate Bill 6001.

The Wallula plant is actively pursuing a sequestration plan and wants to be a national demonstration site for the new technology.

The Kalama plant however was making no plans to sequester emissions at this time, arguing that it was economically and technically infeasible. "So what!" said state siting regulators.

The laws the law, Energy Northwest, so get used to it!

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