‘Business-As-Usual’ Resource Plan Locks Oregonians into a Dirty Coal Energy Future
September 4, 2009, Portland General Electric (PGE) released its Draft Integrated Resource Plan which ties Oregon’s future to an antiquated, 19th-century technology. Instead of looking at diversifying its resource mix, PGE plans to continue its reliance on dirty coal power.
“Oregonians deserve better than this business-as-usual plan,” said Chad Hadsell, Sierra Club activist. “At a time when the public is calling on PGE to reduce its dependence on dirty energy and address global warming, PGE’s plan actually increases CO2 emissions and continues over-reliance on coal.”
The draft plan was released as part of PGE’s Integrated Resource Planning process, in which the utility is required to develop a low-cost energy plan to meet future and current electricity demands though a variety of energy resources. The draft calls for:
• The continued use of the PGE’s Boardman coal plant until 2040, when it will be a 70 years old;
• The investment of $600 million of customers’ money in pollution control equipment that won’t even address the plant’s huge CO2 emissions—money that could otherwise be spent on cleaner energy;
• A 19% increase in Oregon’s share of the energy generated by PGE’s Boardman coal plant;
• The addition of a new 406 MW natural gas plant – a resource that is unnecessary to meet future load growth.
Yesterday, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council released their draft 6th power plan, which states that the region can meet 85% of our load growth with energy efficiency alone. Decision-making bodies in the region like the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and the State of Oregon are setting standards for addressing global warming. PGE’s plan hardly goes far enough to help us meet global warming reduction goals.
Boardman, Oregon’s only coal plant, is the largest stationary source of air and global warming pollution in Oregon, emitting carbon dioxide, mercury, soot, acid rain, smog and haze-causing pollutants that are also responsible for premature death, heart attacks, asthma, and other health conditions.
“By prolonging Oregon’s reliance on dirty coal, PGE is placing citizens’ health and even their lives at risk,” said Catherine Thomasson, MD of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Burning coal is damaging to the lungs, the heart, and even the nervous system. Furthermore, it’s the single largest source of America’s global warming gases. We should be turning to clean energy alternatives instead.”
The plant also pollutes more than 10 federally protected areas, including the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Mount Hood Wilderness Area, Mount Rainier National Park, and Hells Canyon Wilderness and National Recreation Area.
“PGE’s coal-fired power plant in Boardman is the single largest source of air pollution affecting the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area,” said Michael Lang, Conservation Director for Friends of the Columbia Gorge. “Pollution from this power plant is obscuring views, damaging ecosystems, and causing acid rain and fog that are likely harming Native American cultural resources. PGE should pull the plug on this aging polluter and move toward greater energy efficiency and renewable sources,” said Lang.
If PGE wants to keep Boardman running, it is required by anti-pollution laws to invest over $600 million into the Boardman coal plant for long-overdue pollution controls, money that could better be spent on energy efficiency and renewable generation. However, none of these new emission controls will curb the 5 million tons of carbon dioxide released by the plant annually. That carbon pollution will become increasingly costly as more laws mandate reductions.
“Continuing coal-generated power is an irresponsible, costly path,” said Brock Howell, advocate for Environment Oregon. “Oregon communities are investing heavily in solutions to the climate crisis, but by refusing to systematically bring Oregon’s only coal plant to closure, PGE will lock Oregon into another 40 years of toxic pollution and ensure we can’t meet our state climate goals. This has huge environmental and long-term economic liability.”
PGE considered 15 scenarios in its planning process. Some phased out the coal plant, replacing the power with cleaner energy while avoiding the investment of over $600 million in pollution controls—but these were ignored. PGE has often expressed a commitment to a new, clean energy future, but when faced with options that have roughly the same costs and risks, it chose not to. Shutting down the plant, compared to keeping it open, results in less than a ½ of a percent rate increase over the next 30 years. PGE chose dirty coal with significantly more pollution.
“PGE’s plan is an insult to the climate goals for the State of Oregon, Multnomah County, the City of Portland and concerned citizens,” Doug Howell , Campaign Director for the Sierra Club’s NW Beyond Coal campaign. “It is a backwards plan that shirks responsibility for protecting our climate. Our children will pay the price.”
In October, PGE will send its Integrated Resource Plan to the Public Utilities Commission. After considering public comment, the Commission will decide whether or not to allow the plan to move forward. We call on PGE to work with its customers, the PUC and all affected areas of Oregon to develop a better, less risky plan. An energy plan based in energy efficiency and clean renewables will benefit ratepayers, ensure a clean energy future, and provide needed jobs for Oregon’s economy.
For more, visit http://www.oregon.sierraclub.org/coal