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June 24, 2010 at 3:51 PM

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TransAlta mercury deal

Posted by Letters editor

Gov. Chris Gregoire needs to stand up for public health

It has come to my attention that the Department of Ecology has announced that they have finalized a mercury pollution agreement with the TransAlta coal plant in Centralia [“Wash., TransAlta reach deal on mercury, haze,” Local News,, June 21].

Not surprisingly, the agreement does not go far enough in protecting public health. This marks the third time in the past six months where the state of Washington has chosen to protect TransAlta’s profits at the expense of the public good.

While Gov. Chris Gregoire is negotiating with TransAlta to come up with a plan to transition the state off coal power, she has made it clear that she wants to wait until 2025 for the plan to go into effect — 15 years. We can’t hold our breath for that long.

The TransAlta coal plant is the state’s largest source of mercury pollution, ejecting roughly 300 pounds a year into the atmosphere. Mercury pollution causes brain damage in unborn babies and newborn infants. Mercury exposure causes developmental problems, permanent loss of intelligence, and clinical impairment on a neurodevelopmental scale. Other hazards from the coal plant include respiratory issues such as asthma and lung cancer. It also bears noting that TransAlta is the single largest contributor to greenhouse-gas emissions in our state.

Gov. Gregoire has asked the coal plant to voluntarily cut its mercury emissions in half, but without a binding law this is unenforceable, and falls short of the pollution controls needed to protect public health. Many states require coal plants by law to cut 90 percent of their mercury pollution, and the U.S. Government Accountability Project has found that this is affordable and achievable in Washington, too.

The bottom line is: Gov. Gregoire needs to stand up for public health and start working to transition Washington off coal much sooner — by 2015.

— William Volmut, Seattle

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