Friday, June 15, 2012

Coal Power in Washington is not 30%

The Seattle City Council passed a resolution a few weeks ago in opposition to coal terminals in Washington State Resolutions 31379.pdf. For coal terminal proponents this is not a good sign. The resolution passed unanimously. Yes, Seattle is not reflective of the thinking throughout the State of Washington, but it is the biggest city and has more clout than any other city in the state. The resolution will encourage the agencies to consider a broad range of impacts when evaluating the various proposed projects, and it appears that is becoming the trend.

Testimony opposing the Seattle resolution from SSA touted jobs associated with the project. Up in Whatcom County that argument has fallen a bit flat after it became clear the job numbers did not come near the initial company claims. But the big whopper was the claim that Washington State generated 30% of its electrical power from coal bellinghamherald./CharlieSheldonletter.pdf. A quick look at one of my favorite government web sites provides a table that shows coal electric generation in Washington to be about 8%

The 8% number will likely be half in a few years when the Centralia coal power plant closes. And the percent will decline further with the pending closure of the Portland run plant in Boardman, Oregon as well as the continued increase in other renewables and wind.

The tone of the letter with the wrong percentages for coal power was highly critical of the Seattle City Council for not having all the facts. I suspect the letter signer did not check the facts before signing. But statements provided as facts provided in the letter made it clear that SSA, the terminal proponent, is not a reliable source of information. The 30% vs 8% was not the only error, but given the huge hydro projects all over Washington State was a sign of a company not understanding Washington State or energy policy in Washington State.  


jeanrw said...

Thanks for clearing up this misinformation, Dan. We had just been discussing it around the dinner table.

CitizenSteve said...

Well darn... fact checking can be a tricky thing. The Washington State Department of Commerce's Fuel Mix Disclosure report says that 18% of the electric power consumed in WA is generated by burning coal (link).

But 18% isn't something that 'Hamsters should be feeling smug about since their power company, Puget Sound Energy, gets 36% of your electricity by burning coal.

Dan McShane said...

It is tricky Steve. PSE generally reports a coal ratio of about 20% in their mix of power sources. 2010 was a poor hydro year. PSE does own a coal power plant (or a chunk of it) in Montana and hence import coal power electricity.

Dave Wenning said...

There is a new adjective for telling lies these days: Romneyesque, as in "that was a Romneyesque whopper."

E. said...

Thanks for the updates on the proposed coal exports.

Never believe anything the coal industry says.

Don't believe how safe and clean they tell you the operations will be. Don't believe the number of jobs they claim they will create. Don't believe the number or the time of day that they say trains will be traveling through your community. Don't believe how many years you are told the coal terminal will operate. And don't be surprised when the community is stuck with the cost of reclamation when the coal terminal closes after it's useful life.

The price of coal never includes all of the costs of coal - coal is a market failure.

The coal loaded out of Bellingham will not include the cost of disease and early mortality resulting from air and water pollution in the community. It will not include the cost of traffic congestion on land and in the sound. It will not include the cost of smog blocking your view of Mt. Baker. It will not include the cost limiting the fish you catch due to mercury contamination (which floats over from coal burned in Asia).

West Virginia has had the coal industry for hundreds of years and yet it remains one of the poorest states. Coal is no path to community prosperity.

Asia's coal pollution showing up in the Pacific Northwest:’s-rise-creates-clouds-us-pollution

Hoh Lake in Olympic National Park contaminated with mercury:

Not only will the coal trains cause traffic jams but so will the coal ships:

I was in Seward, Alaska a few years back while an Asian ship was being loaded with coal. The smoke coming out of that ship's smoke stack created the worst air pollution I have ever experienced. Consider the impact on Bellingham's air quality if a dozen freighters are waiting to load.

It is not uncommon for stockpiled coal to catch fire for weeks creating air pollution:

Storm water runoff from coal piles is always a pollution problem - acid runoff containing heavy metals. This would create a much larger challenge for Bellingham given the variability of the storm size that frequent the area - treatment facilities need to be designed for the largest storm or the community will end up with polluted waters.

If the proponents of the coal terminal are so concerned with creating a few jobs in Bellingham why don't they support bringing long-lasting sustainable green jobs to the area.

Those who want to work in the coal industry might consider moving to Logan, West Virginia or Gillette, Wyoming.