Alberta-based TransAlta and Washington State’s Gov. Chris Gregoire over the weekend reached an agreement to shut down the last coal-fired power plant in the Pacific Northwest. The first boiler of the company’s 1,460-MW plant in Centralia, Wash., will be closed in 2020 and the second in 2025.

The agreement also calls for TransAlta to begin installing, by 2013, non-catalytic reduction controls to reduce nitrogen emissions.

The measure now goes to state legislature, where Sen. Phil Rockefeller (D-Bainbridge Island) has introduced a bill, SB 5769, to incorporate the agreement into law. “My bill … does not abruptly shut down the plant—instead it provides a pathway and incentives and encourages a coal-free date of 2020 in law,” Rockefeller blogged. “Incentives would enable local utilities to enter into long-term contracts with TransAlta for power from a combination of coal and cleaner fuels, as the company backs off coal and moves toward cleaner energy choices.”

Gov. Gregoire lauded the agreement in a statement, saying it promised “cleaner air.” Stephen Snyder, president and CEO of TransAlta, said that the legislation met the company’s commitment to a low-carbon future. The “transition from coal to gas in Washington, significantly reduces our environmental risk and allows us to provide fair shareholder value through favorable long-term contracts while protecting jobs and the economy of the local community,” he said

“Given the age demographics of our workforce and normal attrition rates, the number of employees at the plant is will closely match the number of employees required to sustain a single unit operation after that. We will assist affected employees and our community through a $20 million community investment and development fund,” Lou Florence, director of Centralia Operations, wrote in an open letter.
Florence added that the company would build “new generation capacity,” including a “large-scale gas fired generating facility.”

Sources: POWERnews, Gov. Gregoire’s Office, TransAlta