Comment on Oil Movement Reports, Coal Mine Expansion, & Dakota Access Pipeline

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October 15: Oregon Coal Plant Closure

On October 15, Portland General Electric (PGE) shut down the 40-year-old Boardman Generating Station in eastern Oregon, the only, coal-fired, power plant in the state and one of three in the four-state Northwest [1].  In 2009, Columbia Riverkeeper, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Sierra Club, and other green groups filed a lawsuit that forced PGE to permanently close the Boardman facility by the end of 2020.  Boardman stood as one of four destinations for the average three daily, Powder River Basin, unit coal trains that traverse and pollute north Idaho, besides the TransAlta coal plant in Centralia, Washington, the Customs District of Seattle, Washington (the largest, U.S. West Coast, and fifth-biggest, American, coal export center), and Westshore Terminals coal export facilities in Delta, west of Vancouver, British Columbia [2-4].  As Washington’s third-largest electricity generator, Centralia’s two coal burners will each retire in 2020 and 2025, with energy offset by natural gas or renewable resources [3].  Two of four units of the coal power plant in Colstrip, eastern Montana, owned by several utility companies, remain the last, uncertain source of coal-fired electricity in the Northwest [5].

November 1: Washington Oil Train & Pipeline Reports

The Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) is proactively inviting tribes, citizens, organizations, and agencies to participate in public hearings and a comment period on its rulemaking and proposed, draft revisions of Chapter 173-185 WAC, Oil Movement by Rail and Pipeline Notification, the Washington law that requires weekly, facility and quarterly, state reports on crude oil transportation [6].  The third and last of three webinars on this rulemaking occurred on October 20.  DOE offered opportunities to view a brief, basic presentation, ask questions afterwards, and give testimony, through an hour-long, online meeting that participants could join from a computer, tablet, or smartphone, or toll-free by phone.

WIRT activists attended and appreciate and support expansion of this Washington rule, to include receiving facility reporting of type and vapor pressure of crude oil-by-rail and type and gravity of pipeline oil.  But we recommend: 1) disclosure of ALL unit hydrocarbon trains traversing the state to receiving destinations outside Washington, including possible liquefied natural gas and petroleum liquids, 2) quarterly instead of current, biannual (twice yearly) reporting of pipeline oil volumes and descriptions, 3) required, not optional, updating of advance reports by facilities on actually received, oil-by-rail shipments, and 4) increased data to local, emergency planning groups and better notices to emergency personnel, in advance of oil and other hazardous materials trains crossing Washington, which, although not covered by this law, north Idaho first responders say they are not receiving.

Please express your interests and concerns in these important decisions that impact the health, safety, and lives of north Idaho trackside communities!  See the linked DOE announcement for further information about webinar agendas, proposed rule changes, and instructions for providing written comments by 11:59 pm on November 1 [6].  Contact Kim Morley of DOE (kim.morley@ecy.wa.gov, kmor461@ecy.wa.gov, 360-701-2398) with your questions about this rulemaking. Continue reading