Yesterday US Senate leaders announced they will give up even trying to pass a comprehensive climate and clean energy bill this year. This makes it clearer than ever: if states like Oregon want to reap the benefits of a clean energy economy, they’ll have to do it without waiting for help from the federal government. Though Oregon is already a leader in clean tech and green jobs creation, we still have much more left to do. And fortunately, this year Oregon has the opportunity to take a huge step toward securing a clean energy future for our state.
If you guessed this has to do with the Boardman Coal Plant, you’re right. The Boardman Plant isn’t just Oregon’s biggest polluter—it is standing in the way of our transition to clean energy. Oregon has one of the nation’s most ambitious goals for reducing carbon emissions. But these goals will be near-impossible to achieve if the Boardman Plant stays open as long as its operator, PGE, would like. Transitioning away from this coal plant within the next few years is the most important thing we can do to make Oregon’s clean energy future a reality.
This choice is laid out within three tentative scenarios the Department of Environmental Quality has suggested for retiring Boardman. None of these options sanction PGE’s original proposal to burn coal at Boardman until 2020 without pollution controls almost certain to be required under federal law. Yet DEQ’s “option one” for Boardman (closure in 2020) and “option two” (closure in 2018), would still tie Oregon to dirty coal for eight to ten years. Keeping Boardman open until 2018 or beyond would also involve PGE spending hefty amounts of ratepayer money on expensive pollution controls.
DEQ “option three” would see the Boardman Coal Plant close in 2015 or early 2016, with minimal new pollution controls required. This choice is the clear winner—for the environment, for clean energy development, and for ratepayers. As the DEQ finalizes its rule-making process, it’s essential this option stay on the table and that PGE not be let off the hook for polluting.
Meanwhile Oregon’s Public Utilities Commission should not allow PGE to sink ratepayer money in the 2018 or 2020 plans, only to see the investments evaporate when the plant closes anyway. There is broad public support for closing the Boardman Plant within the next few years, and progressive Oregonians are mobilizing to make it happen. Next month young climate and clean energy activists will be taking our concerns directly to PGE’s Portland offices in a manner that can’t be ignored. Progressives who want to keep clean energy jobs flowing into Oregon need to shout out this message loud and clear: the Boardman Coal Plant needs to go, and delay is unacceptable.
When it comes to building a green economy the federal government, handicapped by a dysfunctional US Senate, won’t be coming to the rescue real soon. Oregon can create thousands of green jobs while improving air quality and protecting the climate, but we’ll have to do the grunt work ourselves. Transitioning off the Boardman Coal Plant in the next few years is perhaps the single most important step, and progressives must seize the chance to do it. It’s the only sure path to Oregon’s clean energy future.