PENDLETON - Two Oregon environmental groups on Thursday, June 16, posted their findings for Oregon most climate-polluting power plants, and the results look grim for plants in Umatilla and Morrow counties - at least for now.
Six of the top 10 dirtiest plants in the entire state are in the two counties, according to research from the Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center and Oregon State Public Interest Research Group Foundation.
"Climate change is here and already impacting lives," said Celeste Meiffren-Swango, state director at Environment Oregon. "We need to do everything we can to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy."
That action already has taken place in Boardman, where Portland General Electric Co. in 2021 dismantled the final coal-powered plant in the state. The pair of environmental groups rated it the dirtiest plant in Oregon in 2020.
The two sister groups looked at data from the Environmental Protection Agency's eGRID, a comprehensive database that shows the environmental characteristics of nearly all of the nation's power plants.
According to the report, Oregon's top 10 most climate-polluting plants in 2020 were responsible for 98.4% of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from the power sector while generating 32.2% of total electricity. The total emissions of Oregon's top 10 power plants are 9.7 million metric tons, which is equivalent to 2 million cars on the road for a year.
While none of Oregon's power plants fell in the top 100 dirtiest in the country, this doesn't mean the power plants were in the clear. The top operating plant, Calpine Corporation's Hermiston Power Plant in Hermiston, produces more than 1.56 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
With coal plants out of the picture, next up could be natural gas plants. These plants, mostly operated by Portland General Electric, also are changing.
"Our natural gas plants constitute a part of our generation fleet that is changing, and will continue to do so," Allison Dobscha, a spokesperson for PGE, said. "These plants will serve a different purpose in the future than they do today, serving more as capacity resources that can provide flexibility and reliability when needed."
The remaining nine plants on the list use methane gas, and the proposed shift away from gas to cleaner energy is something Meiffren-Swango is hopeful for.
"This list underscores how methane is an extremely potent gas," the Environment Oregon director said. "We will figure out better ways to power our lives before it's too late."
With Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signing a clean energy bill that promises 100% renewable energy for electricity by 2040, Meiffren-Swang said she believes that change is coming, and soon.