How A Washington Coal Town Is Reinventing Its Economy

How A Washington Coal Town Is Reinventing Its Economy

September 20, 2018

Environmentalists can be quick to cheer when a coal plant shuts down. But when a plant is a community’s lifeblood, providing jobs, tax revenue and other economic necessities, its closing can have devastating effects.

The town of Centralia, Washington, was facing this economic crisis with the impending retirement of the TransAlta Coal Plant. “It is their Boeing, it is their Microsoft,” said Doug Howell of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal initiative, in a Bloomberg Philanthropies video.

It is also the biggest individual polluter in the state, according to Howell, producing 10 million tons of carbon a year, or the equivalent of about 2 million cars. Facing several lawsuits related to compliance with air-pollution requirements, TransAlta sat down with the governor’s office in 2005 to create a plan to lower emissions. But momentum for a more dramatic change was building.

Ultimately, the decision was made to shut it down — but not without a plan to ensure Centralia’s economy didn’t shut down with it. Watch the video below to see how the town, government and TransAlta took a complicated problem and turned it into something positive for the community, the company and the environment:


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