Monday, September 26, 2011

Oregon's Coal Plant Agrees to Clean Up the Columbia

By Duane Craig

The only coal-fired power plant in Oregon will pay out $2.5 million to restore land along the Columbia River, according to this article in The Columbian. The plant will also have to reduce its sulphur dioxide emissions by thousands of tons and allow environmental groups to do the studies that will finally decide the plant's allowable emissions after 2013.

Portland General Electric, owners of the plant, entered into the consent decree with five environmental groups. The power plant is cited as one of the sources of pollution affecting visibility in 11 national parks and wilderness areas. It is also responsible for up to 50 percent of the pollution in the Columbia River Gorge at certain times of the year, according to a study done by the Yakama Nation.

The 2008, draft "Gorge Air Study and Strategy" outlined five major contributors to the visibility problems in the gorge: power plant emissions; wood stoves; motor vehicles; ships, trains, trucks; agricultural ammonia sources. The report also cited pollution sources in Canada and other countries as contributing to the contaminant load in the gorge. At the time of the report the use of Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) on the power plant was anticipated to significantly reduce its pollution with "significant improvement in Gorge visibility as well as reducing emissions contributing to acidic deposition."

PGE disputes that it has violated federal Clean Air Act rules -- a contention in the lawsuit by the environmental groups that led to the consent decree -- even though the EPA had notified PGE that the plant was in violation of clean air rules shortly after the suit was filed.

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