Clean Air, Healthy Families
Environment Washington’s research, advocacy, and action helped convince decision-makers in Olympia to set a shut-down date for TransAlta, the state's largest stationary source of air pollution.
Washington’s last coal-fired plant to close by 2025
Toxic emissions from coal-powered plants pollute our air and put our health at risk. Our state can do better — and soon, we will. Environment Washington’s research, advocacy, and action over the last year helped convince decision-makers in Olympia to start the transition to a clean energy future. In April, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a law setting a shut-down date for the state’s last coal-fired power plant and requiring its owner, TransAlta, to invest in clean-energy alternatives.
As the oldest and dirtiest power plant in Washington, TransAlta has produced the lion’s share of pollution in our state for far too long: It is the largest single stationary source of carbon, mercury and smog pollution in Washington.
Since we began the call for a coal-free future, thousands of members made contributions, contacted legislators and appeared at community forums. With your support, Environment Washington educated decision-makers in Olympia, released a report to draw attention to the 360 pounds of mercury emitted annually by the plant, hand-delivered letters to key decision-makers, and helped mobilize concerned citizens for action. Together, we built the case for a coal-free future in Washington, and our elected officials made the right decision for our health, the environment and our economy. TransAlta will be closed in 2025, and the facility will take immediate steps to reduce emission of nitrogen oxides and invest in clean energy development.
This is a huge victory for public health and the environment, but there’s more we can do. Coal pollution can travel from state-to-state, so Environment Washington worked with our partners across the country to support clean air standards that will cut mercury pollution by 90%, saving thousands of lives each year. The coal industry and their friends in Congress are trying to roll back these historic new standards, but we’re urging Congress to let EPA do its job and move forward with its commonsense plan to protect public health.
Toxic chemicals threaten our health
More than half of all Americans live in places with unsafe levels of air pollution, which causes of heart attacks, asthma attacks, emergency room visits, hospital admissions and even deaths year.
Studies show that 1 in 10 women of childbearing age has enough mercury in her bloodstream to put her child at risk of health effects should she become pregnant. This means that more than 689,000 out of the 4.1 million babies born every year could be exposed to dangerous levels of mercury.
The consequences are serious: Children who are exposed to even low-dosage levels of mercury in the womb can have impaired brain functions, including verbal, attention, motor-control and language deficits, as well as lower IQs. When these children are monitored at ages 7 and 14, these impairments still exist — suggesting that the damage caused by mercury may be irreversible.
3,781 bodies of water contaminated nationwide
Coal-fired power plants spew hundreds of thousands of pounds of toxic mercury into our air every year, which falls to earth in the form of rain and contaminates rivers, lakes and streams.
Wildlife that is exposed to mercury may have develop more slowly, have reduced fertility or even die, depending on the level of exposure. And it doesn’t take much: Scientists found that a gram of mercury — about a drop — deposited in a mid-sized lake in Wisconsin over the course of a year was enough to account for all of the mercury subsequently found in that lake’s fish population.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, mercury impairs 3,781 bodies of water across the country, and 6,363,707 acres of lakes, reservoirs and ponds in the United States are contaminated by mercury pollution.
With your help, we can all breathe cleaner air
Recently, the EPA moved ahead with efforts to significantly reduce mercury, soot and smog pollution, announcing historic emissions standards that will save 46,000 lives a year. Unfortunately, polluters and their allies in Congress launched a coordinated attack to block these critical safeguards.
We’re working closely with our allies in the public health community, lobbying our senators, and rallying thousands of activists stand up for public health.
It won’t be easy, but if enough of us speak out, we can drown out the coal industry lobbyists and make sure that the EPA is allowed to do its job and protect public health.
New EPA standards will cut mercury emissions by 90%.
- TransAlta emits 360 pounds of toxic mercury each year—but it's days are numbered. Thanks in large part to our research and advocacy, TransAlta will close by 2025 and invest immediately in clean-energy alternatives.
- New air pollution standards could save 25,000 lives.
- Right now, mercury pollution puts 1 in 10 women of childbearing age at risk.
- Together with our allies, we’ve delivered more than 800,000 comments to the EPA in support of a strong mercury standard.
- On December 21st, 2011, the Obama administration responded to this show of support by announcing the first-ever nationwide standards for mercury pollution from power plants.