OLYMPIA, Wash. - As lawmakers continue their efforts to close Washington
State's multi-billion dollar budget gap, environmentalists are urging
them to close a tax loophole for the state's largest polluter.
Washington State could save $5 million per year by ending the tax break
for TransAlta, the Canadian company that owns a coal-fired power plant
Ethan Bergerson, associate regional representative for the Sierra
Club's Coal-Free Washington Campaign, says ending the tax break
would make sense, both for health reasons and to help the state's
"We are proposing a solution which will actually create jobs in
Washington by taking money which currently goes to the TranAlta coal
plant, our state's largest polluter, and putting it into clean energy
workforce development investments. "
A spokesperson for Gov. Gregoire says she opposes ending the tax break
because she wants to maintain employment and well-paying jobs. Senate
Majority Leader Lisa Brown has included repeal of TransAlta's exemption
in a consolidated package of bills closing corporate tax loopholes.
The governor says she is trying protect 300 jobs at the coal-fired power
plant, but Bergerson says the tax break was actually designed to help
the previous owners of the plant keep an adjacent coal mine going.
History shows that did not work, he adds.
"In 2006, the TransAlta Corporation laid-off 600 workers at the coal
mine and shutdown the mine; these jobs are no longer there. This tax
giveaway does nothing to protect workers; it just lines the pockets of
our state's worst corporate polluter."
Last year, the Senate tried but failed to redirect some of the money
from the tax break for the purpose of helping displaced workers. Now,
the Senate is looking to end the entire tax break.