It’s time to make Western Washington coal-free | Guest Column

It’s time to make Western Washington coal-free | Guest Column

For Washington to be a true climate leader, PSE needs to get out of the coal business.

  • Tuesday, May 15, 2018 5:06pm
  • Opinion

With the federal government now ignoring the growing threat of climate change, it’s never been more important for cities and states to act boldly to protect the next generation from the worst effects of climate disruption.

Fully confronting climate change will be complex, but there’s something simple we can do right now that will drastically cut our region’s contribution to the climate problem. But we need our state’s largest utility to help.

Puget Sound Energy is the largest owner of the massive Colstrip coal plant in Eastern Montana. Colstrip is the largest source of climate pollution in the American West – belching out carbon dioxide equivalent to more than 3 million cars on the road, in addition to immense amounts of sulfur, mercury and other toxic threats to public health. If you’re a Puget Sound Energy customer, like we are, you’re helping prop up this climate-cooking fossil fuel plant every time you flip on the lights in your home.

The good news is that the end of Colstrip in sight. Half of the plant must be retired by 2022, thanks to a legal settlement over the plant’s air pollution. And last year PSE restructured its Colstrip debt, positioning itself to pay off the rest of the plant by 2027. To it’s credit, PSE agreed to set aside $10 million for the economic transition of the plant’s employees and hundreds of millions more for the clean up of decades of toxic coal ash that has ruined the local groundwater.

But incremental progress isn’t enough when we’re seeing the very real impacts of climate change. Rampant forest fires, prolonged drought and acidifying oceans threaten Washingtonians and our salmon and shellfish industries. It’s time for PSE to take the next step and commit to a hard date to get off dirty coal once and for all.

The stars are aligning for Western Washington to be coal free by 2025. That’s when Transalta, the only coal plant in Washington State, is required to quit burning coal. That’s also when King County, which makes up more than half of PSE’s customer base, has pledged to be off coal.

A firm 2025 retirement date would also prevent more environmental damage in Montana. The Rosebud strip mine, which provides Colstrip’s coal, will peter out by the end of 2024. Westmoreland Coal Company, the mine’s financially troubled operator, wants to expand the mine, even though it’s cleaned up less than 3 percent of the 25,000 acres of Montana grassland it has already destroyed.

Getting off coal and replacing it with clean energy like wind and solar is a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity for the entire Pacific Northwest. Clean energy already supports more than 73,000 jobs in Washington State, and we’re just getting started. Replacing the coal that makes up 37 percent of PSE’s energy mix is going to keep local workers employed in manufacturing and installation for many years.

As elected officials in Western Washington, our constituents are calling upon us to work together as a region, take positive action on climate change, build the economy of the future, and clean up the spoils of the fossil fuel industry. It just makes sense. The time for action is now. It’s time for PSE to get off coal.

Nathaniel Jones is the mayor pro-tem of Olympia, Michael Lilliquist is a Bellingham City Councilmember and Jay Arnold is Deputy Mayor of Kirkland.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Opinion

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Why should the threat to Taiwan concern us in WA? | Brunell

Unfortunately, what happens in Taiwan doesn’t just stay in Taiwan — it… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Election 2021: Closer look at King County races | Roegner

The race for Mayor of Seattle will dominate the regional media, but… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Questions surround vaccine exemptions for state workers | Roegner

With about 4,800 state employees in 24 agencies requesting vaccine exemptions, which… Continue reading

Dr. Jayendrina Singha Ray serves as Faculty of English at Highline College. Her research interests include postcolonial studies, spatial literary studies, British literature, and rhetoric and composition. Prior to teaching in the U.S., she worked as an editor with Routledge and taught English at colleges in India.
What the Afghan wants to say: Arezo’s journey to America | Guest column

In our little Zoom room, I hear my interviewee break into sobs.… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Can a Texas-style abortion law happen in Washington? | Roegner

If politicians really want to anger women voters, the easiest way is… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Reasons to ban Gov. Jay Inslee’s natural gas ban | Brunell

Column: Switching from natural gas to electricity is complicated and will impact everyone.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Vaccinations improve our health and employment numbers | Brunell

It is not surprising that COVID-19, which ravaged the world, was disastrous… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Firefighters vs. the governor’s vaccine mandate | Roegner

We all thought we were in this fight with the coronavirus together,… Continue reading

Providence employees look at anti-vaccine mandate protesters as they cross the street outside of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Aug. 18, 2021. Olivia Vanni/Sound Publishing
Editorial: A message to the unvaccinated and unmasked

We know you’re frustrated with mandates and advice, but consider our frustrations and, yes, our anger.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Back to the classroom during abnormal times | Roegner

If it didn’t feel so normal, we might forget about the coronavirus… Continue reading

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
What’s up with the real estate market? | Guest column

As we all know, the residential real estate market and prices have… Continue reading

9/11 Memorial in Cashmere, Washington. Photo courtesy of Greg Asimakoupoulos
Twenty years after tragedy brought us together | Guest column

Recently, I was reflecting on where I was and what I was… Continue reading