PGE Takes Step Towards Closing Oregon’s Only Coal Plant

Originally at www.WattHead.org – Energy News and Commentary

Oregon’s largest utility, Portland General Electric (PGE), announced it’s moving forward on a plan to stop burning coal at the state’s only operating coal plant. The investor-owned utility, which serves Portland, much of the surrounding metropolitan area, and the state’s capitol, Salem, informed the Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) that it intends to pursue a plant that would either shut down the 550 megawatt coal-fired Boardman Plant or completely switch fuel sources by 2020.


According to a company press release, PGE submitted its most recent integrated resource plan (IRP) to the OPUC in November, proposing to install extensive emissions control retrofits on the Boardman Plant, at an estimated cost of $520 million to $560 million. These controls would allow the plant, located in northeastern Oregon along the Columbia River, to continue to operate despite new, stricter emissions rules from the state Environmental Quality Commission (EQC).

“Our preliminary analysis shows that an alternative plan may be the best option for our customers and we intend to pursue that,” said Jim Piro, PGE’s President and CEO. “We need to complete our analysis and determine whether we have enough support to move forward, but we feel it’s important to let people know that this is our preferred path.”

According to PGE:

The company chose not to include a proposal in its IRP to cease Boardman operations in 2020 because such a plan would not be actionable under the EQC rules; however, further discussion with environmental regulators and other stakeholders suggests that there may be support for a rule change.

“Right now state regulations give us very few options – either shut the plant prematurely at a tremendous cost to customers or install very expensive new controls despite uncertainty about future carbon regulation and technological developments,” Piro said. “We think an alternative plan could reduce cost and risk for our customers while giving us time to develop replacement resources or convert to a different fuel, but we’ll need changes in state rules and help from our stakeholders to accomplish that.”

Piro noted that if agreement on an alternative plan can’t be reached, PGE will continue to seek approval for installation of all required emissions controls and continued operation of the plant – the best option available to customers under current state rules.

PGE intends to work with the OPUC to establish a new schedule for review of resource planning decisions regarding the Boardman Plant.

Closure of the Boardman Plant would mark the end of coal-fired electricity generation within Oregon and the closure of the largest single source of air pollutants in the state (if not west of the Rockies). The aging coal plant was first built in the 1970s and predates the more stringent air emissions requirements of the Clean Air Act.
Continue reading ‘PGE Takes Step Towards Closing Oregon’s Only Coal Plant’

Science Confirms the Abhorrently Obvious: Blowing Up Mountains Damages Environment, Human Health

Or should I say, the obviously abhorrent…

The incredibly destructive coal mining practice known as “mountaintop removal” causes “pervasive and irreversible” damage to human health and the environment, according to an authoritative scientific study released today.

The comprehensive and far-reaching scientific review, entitled “Mountaintop Mining Consequences“, was conducted by members of the National Academy of Sciences and is being published in the prestigious journal Science.

The study summarized dozens of pre-existing scientific papers analyzing the impacts of mountaintop removal mining, a type of surface coal mining that uses huge amounts of explosives to blast away the tops of mountains to expose coal seams. The resulting debris (aka the former mountain) are typically disposed of through a practice known as “valley fills,” where tons of mining debris are dumped into neighboring valleys, burying miles of headwater streams and valley ecosystems.

According to a press release on the study:

…the authors outline severe environmental degradation taking place at mining sites and downstream. The practice destroys extensive tracts of deciduous forests and buries small streams that play essential roles in the overall health of entire watersheds. Waterborne contaminants enter streams that remain below valley fills and can be transported great distances into larger bodies of water.

Mountaintop removal mining has already buried more than 800 miles of Appalachian streams and destroyed hundreds of square miles of woodlands in one of America’s biodiversity hotspots, all while both the U.S. EPA and state environmental agencies have allowed the destructive practice to continue. That’s left it to activists to slow these projects down and prevent their irreversible damages.

The new scientific study condemned federal and state regulation of mountaintop removal mining operations, concluding that “Current attempts to regulate [mountaintop mining and associated valley fill] practices are inadequate,” and that “Regulators should no longer ignore rigorous science.”
Continue reading ‘Science Confirms the Abhorrently Obvious: Blowing Up Mountains Damages Environment, Human Health’

This will be a war of inches, won by sheer persistence and creativity

Like many of you, I’ve spent much of the past four days trying to make sense of the repercussions and reverberations of the chaotic and dramatic final hours of COP15 in Copenhagen.  How fitting then that Copenhagen concludes as the new year approaches.

The new years season is often one of reflection, a time to look back at the events of the last year and ponder their implications for the course ahead, while setting new intentions for the coming year.

There is much to be said and much to ponder and many emotions to sort out. I hope we all have the time to reflect, plan and renew our resolve in the coming weeks. For now, I only want to share these words with my fellow climate activists. They are not mine, but I find them as apt as any, and a succinct summary of what has been, for me, an increasingly powerful realization:

What came out of Copenhagen is nothing but a faint promise. To make it something real, much less what’s needed, will require intense pressure from civil society, elites, businesses, enlightened governments, and ordinary citizens. And guess what? If there is a robust, legally binding treaty signed in Mexico next year, with sufficient targets and timetables … intense pressure will still be required.

This will be a century-long fight. If the green movement is going to sustain itself over time, it might be wise to try to avoid the emotional roller coaster of “last chances” and “historic failures.” That’s a recipe for burnout. There will be no cathartic moment, no final breakthrough, only a war of inches won by sheer persistence and creativity.

(more here)

Persistence and creativity. Those are two traits that are most certainly not in short supply among the many young clean energy and climate leaders I know. That gives me hope. If the right lessons are learned from the past year, the course ahead will ultimately be successful.

Here’s to 2010, and to the long, critical road ahead.

ALERT: Blasting Begins on Coal River Mountain

An update from Coal River Mountain Watch and Appalachian Voices. You can take emergency action here.

Mountaintop Removal Mining to Destroy 6,600 Acres-and Wind Potential

Appalachian community advocates and environmentalists across the nation are expressing outrage that mountaintop removal coal mining operations have begun on Coal River Mountain in West Virginia, a mountain that has become symbolic in the nationwide campaign to end mountaintop removal mining. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection told the Charleston Gazette on Monday that blasting had begun last week, confirming local reports of blasts and smoke that were witnessed on Friday near the Brushy Fork coal slurry impoundment, the largest slurry dam in Appalachia with the capacity to hold 8.2 billion gallons. Slurry is the by-product of coal washing and processing operations and contains high levels of toxic heavy metals like mercury, selenium and lead.

For the last two years, local residents have campaigned for the opportunity to place a commercial-scale wind farm on Coal River Mountain instead of the mountaintop removal mining that has been permitted by the state. The Coal River Wind campaign has focused on asking West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin to rescind the mining permits for Coal River Mountain. So far, Governor Manchin has denied the group’s request.

“The Coal River Wind Campaign has been a symbol of hope for the people of the Coal River Valley,” said Lorelei Scarbro, organizer for Coal River Mountain Watch. “My neighbors are excited about the idea of jobs that allow them to produce energy in a way that is sustainable. Coal River Mountain, the last standing mountain in the valley, should remain intact as a symbol for a new day in the Appalachian coalfields.”

With no response from Governor Manchin’s office, residents and environmental groups are now looking to the Obama administration to intervene.
Continue reading ‘ALERT: Blasting Begins on Coal River Mountain’

Greenpeace: Climate Legislation More Likely to Perpetuate Fossil Fuel Economy than Spur Swift Transition to Clean Energy

Originally at the Breakthrough Institute

Climate change legislation recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and now under consideration in the Senate will “succeed in perpetuating business as usual and fail to avert catastrophic climate change,” according to a new Greenpeace report quietly released yesterday.

Titled “Business as Usual,” the report was prepared on behalf of Greenpeace by David Sassoon, who publishes the climate news site, SolveClimate. It is written as a “plain-spoken” analysis meant to be “a call to action to the President of the United States,” according to the document.

“In order for federal climate legislation worthy of this nation to pass Congress, we see no alternative to active and principled engagement from the Oval Office,” Greenpeace writes.

The report levels five key criticisms of current Congressional legislation, calling attention to what Greenpeace describes as “five points of maximum danger” that the environmental group argues must be addressed to ensure climate legislation is capable of spurring “a swift transition to a clean energy future.”

While we certainly don’t share Greenpeace’s position on all (most) climate matters, this new report levels a pointed and impassioned critique of current Congressional climate action well grounded in the details of the pending legislation. Here’s a ‘Cliffs notes’ version of the full report below the fold…
Continue reading ‘Greenpeace: Climate Legislation More Likely to Perpetuate Fossil Fuel Economy than Spur Swift Transition to Clean Energy’

US Chamber of Commerce: We Remain “As Staunchly Opposed As Ever” to Climate Bill

Originally posted at WattHead.org – Energy News and Commentary

[Updated with video from press event below...]

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reversed their position on climate change policy this morning, throwing their full support behind Congressional climate legislation.

Citing overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change poses dire risks to human societies and will be unquestionably “bad for business,” the Chamber released a press statement and held a briefing at the Washington D.C. Press Club to announce the group’s new position:

“There is only one sound way to do business: that’s to support a strong climate-change bill quickly, so that this December in Copenhagen, President Obama can lead the entire business world in ensuring our long-term prosperity. … The Kerry-Boxer Bill is a good start to a strong climate bill, and the Chamber will work with Senators Kerry and Boxer to strengthen it”

Does this about face from the previously staunchly anti-climate bill Chamber sound too good to be true? It is.

Only a few minutes into the event at the Press Club, a Chamber of Commerce spokesperson showed up to confront “the Chamber of Commerce spokesperson” at the podium as a hoax. A flurry of calls to reporters later, and the Chamber had strongly reiterated the not-so-leading business group’s true position on Congressional climate policy:

“An actual Chamber spokesman, J.P. Fielder, said the group remains as staunchly opposed as ever to the climate bill,” reports a Wall Street Journal blog. Phew, good to know the Chamber remains “staunchly opposed” to any real proposals for Congressional climate legislation.

As the WSJ makes clear:

“[Chamber President Tom] Donohue has been vociferous in his opposition “cap and trade” legislation favored by the White House that would make industries pay for carbon emissions. That position has resulted in the defection of big chamber members including Exelon Corp., PNM Resources, Pacific Gas & Electric and Apple Inc. Others, including Xerox, Lockheed Martin and Caterpillar, are under pressure from environmentalists and shareholder activists to do the same.”

[Update: Here's video of the "real" Chamber of Commerce representative confronting the prankster Chamber of Commerce representative. Will the real Chamber please stand up?!]


Continue reading ‘US Chamber of Commerce: We Remain “As Staunchly Opposed As Ever” to Climate Bill’

A Moment of Truth for Appalachia, Obama and EPA on Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

A moment of truth has arrived for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and President Barack Obama, who has promised “unprecedented steps” to rein in the devastating practice of mountaintop removal coal mining that is wrecking havoc across wide swaths of Appalachian mountains, valleys and communities.

EPA is expected to announce decisions this week on over 100 pending permits for new or expanded coal mining projects utilizing mountaintop removal (MTR), which uses huge amounts of explosives to decapitate mountains and access the coal beneath, dumping the remains of these once-verdant Appalachian peaks directly on top of neighboring valleys and streams.

Mountaintop removal mining has already buried more than 800 miles of Appalachian streams and destroyed hundreds of square miles of woodlands in one of America’s biodiversity hotspots, all while both the U.S. EPA and state environmental agencies have done little to curtail the practice. That’s left it to activists to slow these projects down and prevent their irreversible damages.

But if recent news that the EPA is seeking to revoke the permit for the largest mountaintop removal mining project in West Virginia history is any indicator, the agency may finally be earning the “Protection” part of their name.

With a self-imposed, September 8th deadline now expired, the EPA is expected to issue an “initial list” this week identifying pending mountaintop removal projects that pose potential environmental concerns. Continue reading ‘A Moment of Truth for Appalachia, Obama and EPA on Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining’

Thinking About Running for Office? “Just Do It!” Says One of Oregon’s Youngest Legislators

This is an excerpt from a podcast and interview I just posted with Oregon State Representative Jules Kopel-Bailey. A young, passionate and pretty brilliant legislator, Representative Bailey is a clean energy and climate champion and recently completed his first full legislative session in Oregon.

While it seems like all eyes are focused on Washington D.C. and the battles raging around Congressional climate and energy legislation, all has been far from quiet on the state front. In the full interview, exclusively at theEnergyCollective.com, I speak with Jules about the Pacific Northwest state’s clean energy leadership and get a recap on the 2009 Legislative Session, including the many clean energy victories, battles, and efforts yet in store in Oregon.

This excerpt seemed particularly relevant to our young readers here…

[Jesse Jenkins]: Jules, you hold what I continue to be a distinguished position, as one of the youngest members of the Oregon House of Representatives, is that right?

[Oregon State Representative, Jules Kopel-Bailey]: Second youngest, yes.

Do you have any particular advice for young Oregonians – or others in other states – who are looking to have an impact on the state political process, really engaging at the grassroots level, or are even thinking about running for office themselves someday?

Well, I’ll support the old Nike slogan and say, Just do it!
Continue reading ‘Thinking About Running for Office? “Just Do It!” Says One of Oregon’s Youngest Legislators’

Caught in Forged Letter Fraud, Dirty Coal Front Group ACCCE Throws their Astroturf Contractor Under the Bus

Originally posted at WattHead – Energy News and Commentary

An update on the story that just keeps on giving: the unfolding saga of the forged letters fraudulently sent by DC lobby firm Bonner and Associates on behalf of dirty coal interests in a deceitful attempt to kill Congressional clean energy and climate legislation.

In June, employees at Bonner and Associates, on a contract for the dirty coal front group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (subcontracted via the Hawthorne Group), sent letters to several Congressional offices fraudulently posing as black, Hispanic, women’s and senior citizen’s groups urging votes against the American Clean Energy and Security Act (the Waxman-Markey bill).

Now, Brad Johnson at the WonkRoom reports:

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) is dumping Bonner & Associates, the Astroturf firm that forged letters to Congress attacking clean energy legislation on its behalf. … ACCCE spokesman Joe Lucas told National Journal that his organization “did nothing wrong”:

We will not be working with Mr. Bonner again. ACCCE did nothing wrong. Looking back, there would be many things we would do differently.

In fact, ACCCE covered up the fraud and is now throwing Bonner under the bus. The coal coalition had been informed by the Hawthorn Group, its primary contractor, days before the pivotal House vote on the energy legislation. But ACCCE kept silent, failing to notify lawmakers or the defrauded organizations. ACCCE continues to employ the Hawthorn Group and the notorious voter-fraud company Lincoln Strategy Group.

Makes you wonder, what else is the dirty energy lobby up to…

UN Climate Chief: Global Community Needs to Invest $300b Annually in Climate Fight

A quick post this morning…

The global community should be investing $300 billion annually to combat global warming, according to UN climate chief Yvo de Boer (pictured). De Boer, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change, says the world needs to be spending $100 billion annually to help vulnerable communities adapt to the impacts of climate change, and another $200 billion each year to shift the global energy mix away from fossil fuels.

“The world will need a phenomenal amount of money to change its energy supply from fossil fuels to cleaner sources and to adapt to climate change,” de Boer said Friday.

According to a UN Environment Program news update:

With 110 days left until the Copenhagen Climate Conference, only “limited progress” was made at the most recent United Nations climate change talks where financing to cut and cope with climate change proved to be a major sticking point among negotiators. …
De Boer estimates the annual cost of climate change adaptation at US$100 billion per year. This is the amount needed to cope with natural disasters such as flooding and drought that will result from increased warming. Meanwhile, he pegs the cost of cutting global emissions at US$200 billion annually.

Continue reading ‘UN Climate Chief: Global Community Needs to Invest $300b Annually in Climate Fight’


Jesse Jenkins


Jesse Jenkins is an energy and climate policy analyst, advocate, and blogger. Jesse is the Director of Energy and Climate Policy at the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland, California, where he works to develop and advance new energy solutions to power America's future, secure our energy freedom, and halt global warming. He joined Breakthrough in June 2008 and previously directed the Breakthrough Generation fellowship program for young clean energy leaders. Jesse worked previously as a Research and Policy Associate at the Renewable Northwest Project in Portland, OR, helping to advance the development of the Pacific Northwest's abundant renewable energy potential. A prolific author and blogger on clean energy issues, Jesse is the founder and chief editor of WattHead - Energy News and Commentary, a featured writer and advisory board member at the Energy Collective, and a frequent contributor at Forbes.com, Huffington Post, and Grist.org.

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