Toxic Energy Projects

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin and a serious problem for people, fish, and other river-life in the Columbia Basin. Today, mercury from local sources—including Oregon’s only coal-fired power plant, PGE Boardman—and global sources—including burning coal in Asia—contributes to mercury pollution in the Columbia River and its tributaries. Washington State has so much mercury contamination that it posts fish advisories for mercury in every river in the state.

Riverkeeper is working with health and conservation groups to protect the Columbia from the serious threats posed by mercury pollution and other pollutants associated with dirty energy projects.

Victory! Securing the Shutdown of Oregon only Coal-Fired Power Plant

PGE Boardman evaded the Clean Air Act for decades by failing to install modern pollution controls. In 2008, Riverkeeper and allies at the Sierra Club, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, and Hells Canyon Preservation Coucil began a strategic grassroots campaign, along with a legal action, to force Oregon’s worst source of mercury, asthma-causing particulates, and haze to install modern pollution controls. In 2011, we celebrated a major victory when PGE agreed to shut down the plant—and reduce pollution in the interim—by 2020. Our settlement also required PGE pay a $2.5 million penalty to the Oregon Community Foundation that will support clean air and water projects in the Northwest.

Victory! Defeating a Proposal for More Coal-Fired Power in Washington State

In 2008, Riverkeeper and allies defeated an Energy Northwest proposal to build a coal-fired power plant along the Columbia River in Kalama, WA. The coal plant would have discharged 8 million gallons of wastewater and the equivalent air pollution of 750,000 cars into the Vancouver, Washington airshed. Riverkeeper challenged the County’s failure to evaluate the impacts of the power plant on Columbia River wetlands and shorelines. While this challenge was pending, the State of Washington passed legislation requiring that developers produce an acceptable, feasible plan for capturing and storing the excess emissions and make a good-faith effort to implement that plan. Riverkeeper’s swift action ultimately helped lead to the defeat of coal-fired power in Kalama.

Coal Export Terminals: Protecting the Columbia from a New Threat

Big coal companies, including Arch Coal and Peabody, are targeting the Columbia River for proposed terminals to export tens of millions of tons of coal to Asia. Learn more about pollution from coal export and coal terminals—and what Riverkeeper is doing to protect the Columbia.