OLYMPIA, Wash. - A House version of a bill to eliminate a state tax
exemption for Washington's only coal-fired power plant has been
introduced in the state Legislature. The TransAlta Corporation,
headquartered in Canada, receives a tax break that amounts to more than
$4 million a year. There have been campaigns to clean up or shut down
the Centralia plant in the past.
Sen. Eric Oemig (D-Kirkland) points out that the plant is the state's
largest source of air pollution, and the money could be spent on
"Here's a place where we're really violating our stated energy policies
by subsidizing dirty energy and impacting the ability of these other
renewables to compete."
The state has been in lengthy negotiations with TransAlta about the
plant's pollution output, and environmental groups have complained
they've been excluded from those discussions. Sen. Oemig decided not to
wait to find out, before proposing an end to the tax break.
"Here we are a year later, with still no agreement. Next year and the
year after that, we might be in the same situation. But, I can assure
you that, if this bill passes, then next year, if we don't have an
agreement, we at least are not still buying their coal."
The tax break was enacted in the 1990s in exchange for the plant
burning locally mined coal. But, the Centralia coal mine closed in
2006, and TransAlta has continued to use the exemption, although its
coal now comes from Montana and Wyoming. House bill 3077 introduced
Thursday has 13 co-sponsors, while its companion bill in the Senate,
6573, has ten.