Regulatory bodies that reject coal plants because of global warming emissions are becoming a more common occurrence in the U.S. Kansas, Texas, and Florida have all rejected plants because of climate change concerns and now Washington State has just shot down a new coal plant because it couldn’t come up with a satisfactory answer for what it would do with its CO2 (carbon dioxide).
The 793-megawatt plant was planned for Kalama in Cowlitz County, WA. Backers of the plant included a coalition of 20 public utilities that called themselves “Energy Northwest.”
But last spring, Washington passed a law that said any new power plant must limit the amount of its global warming emissions to that of a highly efficient natural gas plant. If a plant emits more than that, then it has to capture and sequester the extra emissions permanently.
Energy Northwest said that it couldn’t sequester the emissions right away because of technology limits and, in fact, complying with the new law was futile. However, after they built the coal plant, the utilities promised they would come up with a plan about storing the future emissions. After the plant was operating for five years, they said they’d also consider buying carbon offsets from an unspecified source to cover the extra emissions.
That was their plan. They called it “adaptive management.” I’m going to remember that one.
Well, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which oversees power plant permits, saw through that quite easily and didn’t take too kindly to the B.S. Neither did other organizations who challenged the plant, including Earthjustice and the Washington Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development.
The Council agreed unanimously to reject the plant and said Energy Northwest’s “plan to make a plan” had “pervasive” flaws. In their strongly worded decision, the Council stated that Energy Northwest failed to meet the minimum requirements of the law and made no good faith effort to follow it. In fact, Energy Northwest was essentially asking the Council to invalidate the state statute in order to allow this plant to move forward, and that is beyond the power of an administrative agency. The Council solidly rejected the coal plant and halted any further consideration of its permit application.
Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council Order No. 833