CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study says that Oregon is receiving a significant amount of its power from five of the nation’s dirtiest power plants.
Environment Oregon Research and PolicyCenter looked at the top 100 power plants that emit the most carbon pollution in the nation – five of which supply power to Oregon.
Environment Oregon says Pacific Power receives nearly 65 percent of its power mix from out-of-state coal plants in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming. The group says Portland General Electric receives 40 percent of its power from the Boardman coal plant in Oregon, which is planned to shut down in 2020.
The group says American power plants are the single largest source of carbon pollution, responsible for 40 percent of national carbon emissions.
Researchers say if emissions aren’t cut soon, the Earth’s temperatures will continue to rise, as will the sea levels.
“What I’m most concerned about is the Greenland Ice Sheet, which is more than two miles high,” said OSU Associate Professor Andreas Schmittner with the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “It could melt completely. And if that ice melts and the water runs into the ocean, the sea level will rise by seven meters.”
Schmittner says once the ice sheet melts, the process is irreversible, creating inundations worldwide, even along Oregon’s coastline.
“This wouldn’t happen from one day to the next,” he said. “It would take some time, but we currently don’t know exactly how long it would take. It could take decades or it could take centuries or even longer than that.”
He says the longer the melting of the ice takes, the more time people have to adapt to the global changes.
“But if it happens rapidly, perhaps many coastal communities would get inundated. There would be huge effects all over the world, including in Oregon.”
Schmittner says within the last 100 years, sea levels have already risen eight inches.
“We expect the melting of ice sheets and glaciers to accelerate if we don’t do anything now to curb carbon pollution,” he said. “Once they have melted, it’s irreversible, even if the temperatures go back down again.”
Schmittner says that when sea levels rise, there is a risk of salt water seeping into fresh water reservoirs, especially in low-level areas, such as the Maldive Islands. He says if the reservoirs of fresh water in the Maldives are contaminated with salt water, the island could become inhabitable.
The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new standards that would limit how much carbon new natural gas and coal power plants would be allowed to emit. The newly proposed rules are slightly looser than what were first suggested in 2012. Existing power plants are exempt from the proposed carbon regulation. However, the EPA says it’s planning to propose new regulations for those plants too, saying that power plants can minimize their carbon emissions by taking advantage of modern technologies.
For more information about the current polluting plants nation-wide, click here.