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Northwest Makes Significant Step Toward Becoming First Region in the Nation to Go Coal Free
Sierra Club Applauds Approval of Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Sixth Power Plan
(PORTLAND, OR)– The Sierra Club today applauded the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NWPCC) for the organization’s approval of its Sixth Northwest Power Plan (Sixth Plan). The Sixth Plan takes a significant step toward a future fueled by clean energy instead of the dirtiest and most dangerous source of power available today– coal. The analysis completed as part of the Sixth Plan’s development clearly demonstrates that the Northwest can meet its goals for reducing dangerous pollution by phasing out at least half of the region’s coal plants, including those supplying power from outside the region, by 2020. Though the plan falls short by ignoring this important analysis in its official recommendations, the Sixth Plan laudably demonstrates that a future without coal is possible.
Pollution from coal-fired power plants has plagued the Northwest for decades. Coal provides 23% of the Northwest’s electricity but emits 87% of the power system’s climate pollution. Burning coal also presents serious health risks for residents of the Northwest-- a recent report issued by Physicians for Social Responsibility noted that pollution from coal-fired power plants is responsible for four of the five leading causes of death in the United States- heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases. The Sixth Plan demonstrates an understanding of the risks of coal and lays out a path for ridding the region of the dirty and dangerous energy source. By utilizing energy efficiency measures to meet the majority of the demand for new electricity, the Sixth Plan anticipates that no new coal-fired power plants will have any reason to be constructed in the Northwest in the foreseeable future.
“The use of energy efficiency to meet future demand is an incredibly important part of our region’s necessary transition away from the use of coal,” said Doug Howell, Senior Representative for the Sierra Club’s Coal Free Northwest Campaign. “The Sixth Plan lays out an orderly, responsible transition to a new, clean energy economy that will create business opportunities, put people to work at sustainable family-wage careers, recover endangered wild salmon and steelhead stocks, fulfill our legal obligations and give us hope for a brighter future. Hard work is left to be done, but this should be seen as the beginning of the end for coal plants in the Northwest.”
Throughout the NWPCC’s Sixth Plan review process, grassroots activists packed hearing rooms in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington to offer comments and urge members of the NWPCC to finally address the hazardous effects of using coal to generate power.
“The Sixth Plan shows us the way forward,” said Cesia Kearns, Regional Representative for the Sierra Club’s Coal Free Oregon Campaign. “The credible energy and economic experts that make up the NWPCC are telling us that a future without coal is not prohibitively expensive, it is not difficult for utilities to achieve and it will not jeopardize power reliability in the Northwest. This shows that we can move the Northwest beyond coal.”
The Sixth Plan goes even further than stabilizing global warming pollution by using energy efficiency; it analyzes the feasibility of reducing hazardous emissions with a “carbon price” of $47 per ton of carbon dioxide. According to the Sixth Plan, for utilities to make necessary reductions in carbon pollution, utilities will either need to phase out coal-fired power plants or assign a carbon price of $47 per ton of carbon emitted.
“Carbon dioxide emissions are the leading contributor to global warming,” said Brad Hash, Regional Representative for the Beyond Coal Campaign in Montana. “By including an analysis of this carbon price in the Sixth Plan, the NWPCC is taking a step to show how we can reduce global warming pollution. This practical approach to reducing global warming pollution proves that a future without coal is a tangible option that only requires a little willpower."
The NWPCC is an agency of the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington and is directed by the Northwest Power Act of 1980 to prepare a program to protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife of the Columbia River Basin affected by hydropower dams while also assuring the region an adequate, efficient, economical and reliable power supply. The Sixth Plan can be seen here: ttp://www.nwppc.org/energy/powerplan/6/default.htm.
For more information about the Sierra Club and the Beyond Coal Campaign, please visit http://sierraclub.org/coal/.
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