“A Tale of Two Oregons”

by Robert Gardner

October 15, 2010

RobertJust today, the Department of Energy has decided to start getting serious about solving the problem of Oregon’s dirty secret.

The largest wind farm in the world has gotten approval to move ahead and much needed loan guarantees.

The Caithness Energy LLC’s Shepherds Flat Wind Project in Arlington will be an 845-megawatt wind-powered energy generating facility located on 32,000 acres just south of the Columbia River. The project will have 338 General Electric’s 2.5xl turbines, and will be the first of its kind in North America.

While the project will sell its power to California ratepayers, this is still a large step in the right direction for Oregon. Furthermore, this project will create 400 construction jobs, and 35 permanent wind jobs on site.

Coal is DirtyOn the other hand, there is still a filthy coal-fired power plant right around the corner.

Portland General Electric (PGE) owns the Boardman coal-fired power plant. It’s the largest source of global warming pollution in Oregon. It spews a toxic mix of mercury, barium, hydrochloric acid, fluoride, manganese, copper, vanadium and lead every day. Oh, and it also discharges massive amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide in addition to it’s carbon dioxide output.

This plant will continue to poison Oregon and surrounding states until it is stopped.

Just last week [i], PGE received a Notice of Violation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stating that PGE’s pollution levels at the Boardman coal-fired power plant are violating federal standards under the Clean Air Act (CAA).

While PGE is a Fortune 500 integrated utility, they’ve been operating Boardman without modern pollution controls since it was built in 1980. In fact, recent upgrades increased pollution levels. The plant’s boiler has experienced 37 malfunctions between 2001 to 2009. As if that is not disturbing enough, from 2008 to 2009, 6.0% of operating hours were in excess of CAA emission limits.

According to a NASA study, [ii] the Boardman Power Plant contributed between 15 and 56% of total fine particulate (PM2.5) pollution across the Columbia River Gorge. Fine particulate pollution can penetrate deep into lungs and circulate in the bloodstream, which can cause heart attacks.

Throughout the years, PGE has spent considerable sums in its fight against sulfur dioxide controls, nitrogen oxide controls, and mercury controls. These pollutants are deadly, both for people and the environment.

For thirty years PGE has obfuscated the truth, avoided pollution controls, and done whatever necessary to increase its bottom line. All the while, they’ve poisoned the Colombia River Gorge and causing asthma, cancer and heart attacks.

I guess that’s the PGE way.

We call upon Governor Kuglongski to protect Oregon’s environment and ratepayers by encouraging the DEQ and PUC to close PGE’s Boardman plant [iii]. We know that solar can create jobs in Oregon. We know that solar can meet California’s demands. It’s time to do the same for Oregonians. They deserve nothing less.

— Robert




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