Photo: Jason Reidy under a Creative Commons license.
On Friday at 7:30am, a team of seven Washington women and men reached the summit of Mount Rainier, which, at 14,411 feet, is the highest mountain (and active volcano) in the state. Of the seven, only two had done anything like this. So why take on the the biggest challenge the Cascade Mountain Range? To fight against the influence of Transalta, the Canadian power company whose coal-fired plant in Centralia, Washington is the largest source of pollution in Washington State.
The Climb Against Coal summit team members, who describe themselves as "a group of pretty average moms with energetic young children and busy lives" present their climb as a rallying point for those who want Governor Chris Gregoire to close the Centralia plant by 2015:
In Transalta, the team has taken on a formidable enemy: one which recently acquired Canada's largest green company via hostile takeover, and which seems to have the support of Gov. Gregoire, with whom the company made a secret, dirty deal to set air pollution regulations behind closed doors.
We feel that it is no longer enough for us to buy local, turn down the thermostat, and carpool when we can. We are called to take more drastic action. TransAlta's coal-fired power plant in Centralia, Washington is the dirtiest point source for carbon dioxide and mercury in the Puget Sound Watershed. When we climb, we will shout from the mountaintops and demand that our Governor shut the Centralia plant down by 2015. We must begin the transition to a clean and green energy future. Our children are counting on us.
Yet the Mountain Mamas, as they call themselves, believe that the time is ripe to confront the prevalence of dirty coal in Washington:
Governor Christine Gregoire is currently negotiating with the TransAlta coal company about their pollution and has pledged to reach a decision by the end of 2010 and has promised public meetings this summer. This is our opportunity to lead Washington beyond coal by 2015.
However, TransAlta has been pushing the state for a 15-year pass to keep on polluting. We can do better, but so far the Governor's office has only considered this delayed transition and has not examined what alternatives are available now.
The Mt Rainier group is not the first to call for action against big coal (see the Sierra Club's 2009 Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire campaign), and we certainly hope they won't be the last!
So now that the team has successfully reached the summit of Mt Rainier, we can only hope that their message will take hold, and that Washington State can set an example for the rest of the country, by fighting the interests of big business and making energy clean and green.