In the great Northwest, it looks as though coal power is one step closer to becoming a thing of the past.

Over the weekend, the Washington state Senate approved a bill that would phase out operations at the state’s only coal-fired power plant. This is expected to help the state meet its ambitions climate change targets set in 2008. The measure, Senate Bill 5769, was essentially a deal that was struck between Canadian-based TransAlta, Washington and a slew of environmental groups.

So here’s the deal: TransAlta gets to be part of a long-term coal plan for the state, but has to phase out the first of its coal boilers by 2020 and the other one by 2025. In addition, TransAlta will allocate $55 million for community reinvestment and research for innovative energy technologies in Washington.

According to reports, this agreement seems to please all sides, especially those who have worked for years to shut down the TransAlta coal power plant. “The 1,376-megawatt power plant has been an environmental target because it spews out considerable air pollution. It is the state's top point source of greenhouse gases, toxic mercury and nitrogen oxide, and second in sulfur dioxide that causes acid rain, according to Department of Ecology data,” according to a recent Associated Press report.
As for what power source will be replacing those soon-to-be-phased-out 1,376 megawatts, TransAlta plans to construct a natural gas power plant in Washington that will burn cleaner than the coal plant. (Then again, a bunch of old tires would also be cleaner ... but that may be a slight exaggeration.)
TransAlta is known to be one of Canada’s largest wind power operators. Beyond its work in Canada, the company has a 249-megawatt natural gas plant in Washington and a small hydroelectric dam. Now it is poised to take some of the heat off itself by phasing out this often-targeted plant, assuming the state House of Representatives votes the same way the Senate. My money is on this bill making it through and Washington state showing that compromises on fossil fuel are possible — even in these divisive political times. 

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