EPA: Whatcom's oil refineries among top polluters in state

BP Cherry Point refinery on Sept. 19, 2013 in Whatcom County .
BP Cherry Point refinery on Sept. 19, 2013 in Whatcom County . THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Whatcom County's oil refineries were some of the biggest polluters in Washington state last year, according to the latest data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

BP's Cherry Point Refinery and the Phillips 66 refinery in Ferndale released more than 2.6 million tons of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming in 2013, an increase of about 3.3 percent from 2012.

Alcoa Intalco Works in Ferndale released more than 1.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gases last year, a 7.8 percent jump from the previous year.

Across the state, Washington's major industrial sources released about 6 million more metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2013, a 30 percent jump from the previous year.

The biggest contributor was the state's only coal burning power plant, TransAlta in Centralia. TransAlta emitted 7.5 million metric tons of pollutants - an 82 percent spike from 2012, after experiencing a big drop the previous year. The Centralia plant, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the state, is scheduled to completely shut down by 2025 under a state law passed in 2011.

Facilities that release 25,000 metric tons or more of carbon dioxide or its equivalent are required to report emissions to the EPA each year. The federal agency has collected such data for four years.

The state's 14 power plants accounted for about 46 percent of that pollution. Many of them also reported some of the largest emission hikes between 2012 and 2013. Puget Sound Energy's generating stations in Ferndale, Bellingham and near Mount Vernon, for example, more than doubled in emissions last year, after posting previous declines.

PSE spokesman Ray Lane said the utility reported much lower emissions in 2011 and 2012 because hydropower operations were running high, well beyond normal levels. When hydroelectric power is up, emissions are low, he said.

"We're currently running at more normal levels, which are similar to the figures seen in 2013," Lane said in an email.

BP's Cherry Point Refinery was the second-highest single source of emissions in the state. It was followed by Shell Puget Sound Refinery in Anacortes, Alcoa Intalco Works in Ferndale, Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes, Phillips 66 refinery in Ferndale, Berkshire Hathaway's Chehalis Generation plant, Clark Public Utilities River Road plant in Vancouver, and Puget Sound Energy's Mint Farm power plant in Longview, Wash.

A Washington state law requires facilities that emit more than 10,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases per year to report their pollution to the state Department of Ecology. Those sources have reported their 2012 emissions to the Department of Ecology. Reports for 2013 emissions are due later this month.