2017 Climate Change Fight Starts Early

In 2017, the fight against climate change starts early. Read more to find out how you can help.

Proposed location of Portland General Electric (PGE)’s new Carty natural gas facility near Boardman, Oregon

Portland General Electric (PGE) is requesting an amendment from the Oregon Department of Energy to expand its Carty natural gas plant. The plant is located near Boardman, Oregon. Comments on this proposal are due by February 3, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. (see details below). Why should we care? The natural gas plants will emit a lot of greenhouse gasses! Natural gas is not a clean bridge fuel and we need to keep it in the ground.

2016 was a milestone year for renewable energy in Oregon. In March, Governor Kate Brown signed the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan, legislation blessed by a coalition of organizations ranging from Portland General Electric and Pacific Power to Sierra Club. The plan makes two central promises: to move the Oregon’s electricity away from coal by 2030, and to shift half of the energy supplied by the state’s largest utilities to renewable resources by 2040.  In December, the Portland city council voted to ban all new fossil fuel export infrastructure, a decision described by former Mayor Charlie Hales as “the first stone in a green wall across the west coast.” 

Based on these state and local laws, one could assume that Portland’s energy utilities will be, over the course of the next twenty (or so) years, slowly but systematically transitioning away from fossil fuels towards greater reliance on renewable energy. But what does this transition look like as we head into 2017?

To find out, head two hours east of Portland, just southwest of Boardman, where the Boardman coal-fired power plant sits. Providing Portland with power and with a capacity of 550-megawatts, it is the only coal-fired power plant in Oregon and is the state’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.

Map of Carty plants https://www.oregon.gov/energy/Siting/docs/CGS/AMD1/CGS%20AMD1%20Exhibit%20B.pdf

The Boardman Generation Site is slated to close by 2020 which seems consistent with Oregon’s goal to move away from coal. However, PGE needs to determine how it will replace all of the energy Boardman now provides, and they do not believe that it is possible on that timeline to do so using primarily renewable energy.

To that end, PGE has applied to the Oregon Department of Energy to amend its certificate for the Carty Generation Station, which sits next door to the Boardman site. The amendment would allow for two new gas plants at the Carty facility and a smaller solar facility as well.

The first 440-megawatt Carty natural gas Generation Station began operation in the summer of 2016 and PGE already holds a permit for 450 megawatts at the second, not-yet built Carty Generation Station (Carty 2). The amendment calls for three additions to the Carty site: to increase the capacity of Carty 2 to 530 megawatts, to add a new 330-megawatt natural gas, simplecycle combustion turbine generator (Carty 3)and to add a 50-megawatt Carty Solar unit. Should these additions move forward, the facility will increase the state’s use of gas by nearly 40% and once Boardman closes, the Carty Site would replace it as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Oregon. 

The problem is that the Carty plants will be emitting a lot of greenhouse gases, especially when methane leaks from well-source to consumer are accounted for. We need to be drastically reducing our greenhouse gases at this moment. Tell Oregon we can do better!


The Department of Energy is accepting comments on this proposal until February 3, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. Please send your comments in saying you oppose expanding natural gas plants in Oregon. One good thing about the amendment is that PGE is requesting to build a 50-MW photovoltaic solar unit as part of their plans. Please applaud PGE’s efforts to build more solar energy, but tell them we need more renewables, not dangerous methane emitting natural gas plants!

Please send your comments to:

Sarah Esterson

Siting Analyst Oregon Department of Energy
550 Capitol St. N.E.
Salem, OR 97301
Email: sarah.esterson@oregon.gov
Fax: 503‐373‐7806

Sample Comment 

Subject: Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground–Natural Gas is not a clean bridge fuel


Oregon has the opportunity to pave the way as a climate leader, and Oregonian’s have a chance to shape their future through input on proposed fossil fuel projects in the region such as the new facility at Carty. Amendment 1 to the Carty plant is a step backwards that is inconsistent with Oregon’s Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan.

Exhibit Y of the Request for Amendment 1, titled “Carbon Dioxide Emissions” does not account for the full greenhouse gas impact that this project has. As currently stated, it appears that the Carty Unit 2, including augmented capacity, and Carty Unit 3, will produce approximately ~ 3.9 million lbs/CO2. However, studies show that approximately 5.4% (+- 1.8%) of methane is leaked from source well to consumer. (Source: http://www.eeb.cornell.edu/howarth/publications/f_EECT-61539-perspectives-on-air-emissions-of-methane-and-climatic-warmin_100815_27470.pdf) 

Methane is 84 times more powerful of a greenhouse gas than is CO2 over a span of 20 years. (Source: EPA https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/understanding-global-warming-potentials).

When the impact of leaked methane is added to the emissions of the existing Carty 1, Unit 2, and Unit 3 plants, the total output of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) greenhouse gasses will be substantial.

Producing heavy amounts of greenhouse gasses would be a major blow to Oregon’s Clean Electricity and Coal Transition goals. We ask that you deny Amendment 1 until more renewable energy is included in PGE’s plans for energy expansion. We ask that you account for methane leaks from source well to consumer in any consideration of the greenhouse gas or CO2 emissions.