TransAlta Leads in Greenhouse Gas Pollution


SEATTLE (AP) — Washington state's major industrial sources released about 6 million more metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2013, a 30 percent jump from the previous year, according to the latest data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The state's only coal burning power plant in Centralia topped the list, emitting 7.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming. Emissions from the plant spiked up about 82 percent from 2012, after experiencing a big drop the previous year.

TransAlta spokeswoman Leanne Yohemas said in an email that carbon dioxide emissions at the company's Centralia plant were substantially below normal levels in 2012, which explains the increase. In that year, she said, hydropower production was running high in the Northwest and the Centralia plant also experienced "extended downtime" as a result of poor market conditions driven by low natural gas prices.

Yohemas said the plant's emissions in 2013 were closer to normal levels and reduced from prior years.

The Centralia power plant, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the state, is scheduled to completely shut down by 2025 under a state law passed in 2011.

Facilities that release 25,000 metric tons or more of carbon dioxide or its equivalent are required to report emissions to the EPA each year. The federal agency has collected such data for four years.

Last year in Washington state, 92 large facilities such as power plants, pulp and paper mills and steel mills released a total of 25.7 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, compared with 19.6 million metric tons in 2012. Total emissions from reporting facilities increased about 18 percent between 2011 and 2013.

The state's 14 power plants accounted for about 46 percent of that pollution. Many of them also reported some of the largest emission hikes between 2012 and 2013.

Puget Sound Energy's generating stations in Ferndale, Bellingham and near Mount Vernon, for example, more than doubled in emissions last year, after posting previous declines.

PSE spokesman Ray Lane said the utility reported much lower emissions in 2011 and 2012 because hydropower operations were running high, well beyond normal levels. When hydroelectric power is up, emissions are low, he said.

"We're currently running at more normal levels, which are similar to the figures seen in 2013," Lane said in an email.

BP's Cherry Point Refinery was the second-highest single source of emissions in the state. It was followed by Shell Puget Sound Refinery in Anacortes, Alcoa Intalco Works in Ferndale, Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes, Phillips 66 refinery in Ferndale, Berkshire Hathaway's Chehalis Generation plant, Clark Public Utilities River Road plant in Vancouver, and Puget Sound Energy's Mint Farm power plant in Longview, Wash.

A Washington state law requires facilities that emit more than 10,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases per year to report their pollution to the state Department of Ecology. Those sources have reported their 2012 emissions to the Department of Ecology. Reports for 2013 emissions are due later this month.