Washington State fired up to meet power crunch gtongreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
Wednesday, March 07, 2001
State fired up to meet power crunch
By Lynda V. Mapes Seattle Times staff reporter
From wood to roofing shingles, compressed garbage to fuel oil, diesel to natural gas: If it burns, we're burning it to get by during the energy crunch.
Since last fall, about 250 diesel generators have been fired up statewide, as well as about 100 natural-gas turbines for emergency generation at power substations and industrial sites, according to Stu Clark, policy analyst with the air-quality program at the state Department of Ecology.
Some of those generators were turned on with special permission from Gov. Gary Locke under declaration of a 90-day energy alert.
Others were allowed to operate under special arrangements with state and federal regulators that allow generators to temporarily exceed normal pollution limits and start before permits are in hand.
At a news conference yesterday, Locke announced the approval of new facilities with a combined power capacity of more than 1,500 megawatts, more than enough to light Seattle.
In all cases, Locke said there will be no net long-term damage to the environment.
Still, some officials worry that air quality will be hurt in the short term as the looming drought forces the region to replace hydropower with electricity generated by burning natural gas, diesel and other fuels.
"We are concerned about backsliding with respect to air quality in the region," said Dennis McLerran, executive director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
"This is a scenario we would rather not see happen, but it is, so we are trying to reduce the emissions to acceptable limits. We are having success at getting good controls on these facilities. But were this to be a long-term change in the way that power is generated the public should be concerned."
An uproar over air quality in Bellingham was sparked by noise and black smoke from 40 diesel generators fired up by Georgia Pacific last Tuesday to run its pulp mill.
On Friday, the city requested a court injunction to shut off the generators under the city's nuisance laws. The Department of Ecology informed Georgia Pacific it would be cited for pollution violations. The generators were turned off over the weekend.
But outrage still simmers: The Bellingham City Council is expected to consider a moratorium on new generators next week.
The region already flirts with the federal smog limit - and that is before firing up an estimated 70 diesel generators and 100 natural-gas turbines over the next several months and through the summer in the central Puget Sound area, McLerran said.
Violating the smog standard could prompt a new, more onerous federal regulatory regime on new industries locating in the area.
Smog irritates the lungs and can cause difficulty in breathing. It is created when sunlight reacts with pollutants pumped into the air by combustion.
Also of concern is the production of airborne soot and carbon monoxide created by the combustion of diesel, as well as the production of carbon dioxide, a "greenhouse" gas that stokes global warming. Natural gas is far cleaner than diesel, but it still pollutes.
Locke said increased pollution from the new plants announced yesterday must be offset with pollution reductions later.
, "There can be no additional harm to our environment," he said.
BP Amoco will replace 26 diesel generators with 14 gas turbines that will produce one-tenth the pollution at its Ferndale-area refinery, Locke said. BP also will supply cleaner diesel and gasoline to its customers, and install better permanent pollution-control equipment than regulators could have insisted on in a regular permit.
In return, he said the company can fire up its gas turbines right away, as its permit goes through the usual regulatory process.
Locke approved a new gas-fired power plant in Chehalis on the condition that $400,000 be spent to offset the effects of carbon-dioxide emissions, a pollutant Washington does not usually regulate. Plant operators will plant trees to soak up the greenhouse gas.
Conservation of both power and water also are essential, Locke said, especially as a possible record drought looms.
"Adding new generation is not enough to get us through the next 18 months," Locke said.
"The energy situation is getting worse as we watch our reservoirs run dry."
Lynda V. Mapes can be reached at 206-464-2736 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), March 07, 2001