PGE, Environmentalists Reach Agreement to Cap Emissions, Phase Out Coal at Boardman

Portland General Electric (PGE) and environmental groups on Tuesday reached a consent decree that will resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations at the 585-MW Boardman power plant—Oregon’s only coal-fired plant—by capping sulfur dioxide emissions and phasing out the use of coal by 2020.

The consent decree, which settles a suit filed by five environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Columbia Riverkeeper in 2008, requires approval by U.S. District Court in Portland following a 45-day review period by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice. PGE said it contested the allegations while working with the plaintiffs to resolve the matter without further litigation.

Under the decree, PGE and its Boardman Plant co-owners will also provide $2.5 million to the Oregon Community Foundation for environmental projects in the Columbia Gorge area and northeastern Oregon, and pay $1 million to reimburse the plaintiffs for legal expenses.

Environmentalists hailed the agreement, saying campaigns to end coal-plant pollution were proving successful. “As the Boardman plant was the only coal-fired power plant in Oregon, this settlement, combined with the Sierra Club’s recent victory securing a phase-out date for the only coal-fired power plant in Washington State – TransAlta’s Centralia facility – puts the Pacific Northwest well on its way to becoming coal-free,” the Sierra Club said in a statement.

PGE said that it was already implementing a plan (dubbed the “Boardman 2020 plan”) adopted by state regulators last year to install a suite of controls and reduce emissions from the plant. On its website, it says it is considering replacing coal with biomass to keep the plant open past 2020.

PGE installed the first of the planned emissions control retrofits this spring, including controls that are expected to filter out 90% of the plant’s mercury emissions. PGE also replaced the plant’s burners, which are expected to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 50%. This fall, PGE will begin testing a dry sorbent injection system that is expected to reduce permitted emissions of sulfur dioxide 67% by 2014 and 75% by 2018.

“We believe the Boardman 2020 plan represents the best approach to compliance with the intent of the new federal rules,” PGE President and CEO Jim Piro said. “Now, we’re asking the EPA to include in the final rules flexibility to accommodate innovative solutions like ours that result in significant emissions reductions and an enforceable end to coal burning years ahead of schedule.”

PGE operates the Boardman Plant and owns 65% of it. The other owners are Bank of America Leasing LLC, 15%; Idaho Power Company, 10%; and Power Resources Cooperative, 10%.

Sources: POWERnews, PGE, Sierra Club

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