Sierra Club
Sierra Club Press Release

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Seth Ballhorn, 206.378.0114 x 302, cell: 206.218.3374
Krista Collard  415.977.5619, cell: 415.977.5619


Coal-Free PSE Campaign Delivers 8,000 Signatures and Unveils Bold New Media Buy
Campaign renews commitment to helping Puget Sound Energy move from dirty coal to clean energy 


Bellevue, WA- Today, members of the growing Coal-Free PSE coalition converged on Puget Sound Energy's corporate headquarters to deliver a strong message to its CEO, Kimberly Harris, to move beyond coal. The coalition delivered 8,000 petitions collected from local Puget Sound Energy customers, and rolled out their new advertisement campaign, which is set to run on buses throughout East King County. The message delivered painted a very clear picture of what's at stake, showing that PSE is at a crossroads, and called for Washington's largest utility to kick its coal habit and invest in clean, renewable sources of energy for Washington. 

"It's time to invest in Washington clean energy jobs now. We should not waste another cent propping up a dirty coal plant in Montana that is literally pumping poisons like arsenic and mercury into our air, and is the eighth-worst greenhouse gas offender in the country,” said Christina Corvin, a fellow at FUSE Washington, a statewide progressive advocacy group. “Rosebud County, where PSE’s coal plant is located, has the third-highest asthma rate in Montana," Corvin added, "The continued burning of coal is holding us back from the transitioning to renewable and sustainable energy here in Washington."

Today's petition delivery comes in the wake of a federal lawsuit filed last week against Puget Sound Energy and fellow owners of the Colstrip Generating Facility, located in Montana. Colstrip is considered by the Environmental Protection Agency as the dirtiest coal-fired power plant in the West, and unbeknownst to some local residents, the source of over 30% of the energy provided to Washington homes in the PSE territory. Puget Sound Energy is the largest owner of the plant, and is being sued for violation of the Clean Air Act, a law that provides safeguards to protect the health and environment of communities from big polluters like the coal-burning facility located in Colstrip, Montana. 

Puget Sound Energy's practice of burning coal is getting the attention of a broad spectrum of residents, including Ethan Hytopoulos, a fifth grader from Bainbridge Island. He says that when it comes to the most important threat facing his generation, climate change, he trusts science. 

"I won’t be 11 for another 12 days, but people my age have learned enough about science to know that burning coal is a huge threat to our planet, our health, and our future," said Hytopoulos. "Coal may be cheap for PSE because they don’t pay for all the problems it creates, but kids my age will have to. Water and food shortages, droughts and storms, and record breaking heat are just some of the things we're already dealing with, and science says it's only going to get worse, unless we stop burning greenhouse gas causing fuels like coal." Hytopoulos added, "I’m here to ask the management of PSE to do the right thing – go home tonight and tell your kids and grandkids that you’ve decided to put their future ahead of short-term profits." 

Kathe Low, a Sammamish resident and concerned local mother, feels that the risks associated with coal are endless, and they're not going away. With the potential to create real, good paying jobs in the clean energy sector for local residents, she believes that now is the time to embrace the opportunity for Washington to harness efficient and sustainable energy for generations to come. 

"We know that PSE is committed to clean energy and has made serious investments, so why stop the progress now? With the growing costs associated with the coal plant, there is no time to waste for PSE to make a real plan to end its unhealthy reliance on coal. This coal addiction is not a legacy we can afford to leave to our children," said Low. 

“PSE promotes a green image, but burning toxic coal at one of the biggest polluting facilities in the country is simply contradictory to that promise,” said Josh Nelson, Campaign Manager from CREDO Action. “Washingtonians don't need a watered down promise of a clean energy future, they need companies like PSE, who can make this vision a reality, to actually deliver the clean energy future." Nelson added, "PSE should come up with a plan to transition away from their filthy Colstrip coal plant immediately.”

“Washingtonians know that dirty coal is not who we are, and it’s certainly not where we want to go”  said Seth Ballhorn, organizer with the Sierra Club. “We expect PSE to adequately account for the pollution liabilities and maintenance costs of their aging coal plant and evaluate whether sinking millions of ratepayer dollars into an outdated and increasingly expensive fossil fuel is a responsible decision.” Ballhorn added, “We are here to help PSE kick the coal habit. From PSE and its customers, to clean energy entrepreneurs, community leaders, and environmentalists—all of us have a role to play.”        

Today's delivery and ad roll out comes as Puget Sound Energy is in the midst of their Integrated Resource Planning Process, a state mandated public planning procedure. PSE was asked by state regulators to conduct a full analysis of all of the future costs and liabilities of its Colstrip Plant. Sierra Club and other stakeholders are fully engaged in this process, and are encouraging them to assess the many opportunities and benefits of investing in clean energy infrastructure here in Washington State. 

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