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Oregon’s Only Coal-Fired Power Plant Closes For Good

Portland General Electric's coal-fired Boardman Power Plant along the Columbia River.
Portland General Electric's coal-fired Boardman Power Plant along the Columbia River.

Oregon is officially done producing coal-fired energy. Portland General Electric permanently closed its Boardman coal-fired power plant in Eastern Oregon on Thursday.

The plant closed 20 years ahead of a scheduled early closure date as outlined in a landmark 2010 agreement that was designed to reduce air pollution from the plant. The plant has been operating 11 miles southwest of Boardman since 1980.

The state still gets coal-fired electricity from power plants in other states, but the Boardman plant was the last coal-fired power plant still operating within Oregon.

Steve Corson with PGE said the closure will eliminate about 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions that were coming from the plant every year.

The company has dramatically reduced mercury and sulfur dioxide emissions from the plant over the past decade to reduce haze and air pollution in the surrounding area.

The utility still gets some coal-fired power from the Coalstrip plant in Montana, where it has partial ownership.

Corson said PGE’s power mix was roughly 15% coal-fired power before the Boardman plant closed, and that number will drop to zero by 2035 because of a state mandate for utilities to eliminate the coal-fired power they import from other states.

Much of the power from the Boardman plant will be replaced by hydro power from dams through agreements with Bonneville Power Administration, Washington’s Douglas County PUD and other suppliers.

The utility is also developing a Wheatridge renewable energy project in Morrow County with NextEra Energy Resources that promises to deliver 300 megawatts of wind and 50 megawatts of solar wind and solar energy.

“Part of the purpose of this is to move away from coal and move toward cleaner energy resources,” Corson said. “One of our long-term goals is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80% by 2050.”

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Cassandra Profita