Photo via Seattle Times
Just when everybody was getting optimistic that government was finally going to start cracking down on polluting companies, we get news like this: the governor of Washington has made a secret deal with Big Coal, setting air pollution regulations behind closed doors. Gov Chris Gregoire made the agreement with TransAlta, the owner of Washington's only coal-fired power plant and single biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the state. So what was the outcome of the shady deal?Dirty Deal with Dirty Coal
Well, besides widespread public outcry, it's hard to say at the moment. According to the Seattle Times, the move has been condemned by federal officials, environmental groups, and much of the public. Why all the furor? Typically, the process of determining regulations is transparent, and open to public scrutiny. And this was anything but—the agreement was reached entirely in secret.
Since the new regulations are still being kept confidential by Gregoire's administration, it's impossible to say exactly what they are. But critics speculate, likely rightfully so, that the process was kept quiet because the new regulations are favorable to the coal plant—many believe that the governor was preempting the incoming carbon regulations that could be instated by the EPA or a cap and trade system in the near future.
Gregoire was likely concerned with preserving jobs, since TransAlta recently was forced to shut down a nearby coal mine that was facing new air pollution regulations. Even so, this hush-hush deal making with the coal industry is disconcerting, to say the least.
Gregoire's Secret Deal
So what was the outcome of this dirty deal?
The final result is that TransAlta has promised to reduce nitrogen-oxide pollution by using cleaner-burning coal from the Rocky Mountains, and will voluntarily cut mercury emissions in half by 2012.
Hm. Well, as long as they're using that cleaner-burning coal, I guess it's cool. Also, critics point out that TransAlta had already agreed to those stipulations long before they went to the bargaining table with Gregoire.
This is precisely not the sort of thing we want to see right when the US could be on the cusp of a renewable energy revolution. In other words: bad move, Governor. And to all those who'd blame the nation's environmental woes on the Republicans, hold your tongues--Gregoire is a Democrat.