Steve Shay
Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin gives a speech on Alki with grandson Gino backing him up all the way. The topic was a coal-free future for Washington.

SLIDESHOW: Coal-Free future in Washington rally on Alki

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A community event to push for a coal-free Washington took place today by the Alki Beach House. Musicians entertained, food was supplied, and City Council President Richard Conlin and others spoke. Kids and grown-ups grabbed paint brushes to create a four-panel mural with the coal-free theme that will be presented to 34th District State Senator Sharon Nelson. Because of high gusts, wind energy was on the minds of many.

The event was sponsored by the Sierra Club, CoolMom, and Earth Ministry. Our state has one coal plant, the 40 year-old TransAlta in Centralia. It is scheduled to transition to natural gas by 2025. It supplies about 10-percent of Washington's energy, but is also the state's biggest polluter, releasing 350-400 pounds of mercury pollution into the air. The plant reports that it has spent $300 million in pollution controls. The plant employees 300.

Anti-coal activist Millie Magner sported a "Beyond Coal" t-shirt at the event.

"My family has a farm near Centralia," she told the West Seattle Herald. "We are downwind from the plant. You can't really smell it and that's why people don't realize it's a problem in that area. It is slated to close anyway, but we need to get it to start transitioning. The sooner we start a program of clean energy production in that area the sooner the state will be safer. There is no reason that, by transitioning, this plant we will be putting people out of work."

Magner believes these workers would find opportunities in clean energy jobs.

"Coal (energy) is bad for our health and bad for the future of this planet," said Robin Everett, spokesperson for Sierra Club, in a speech. "Right now we have no national standards for mercury. We have asked TransAlta to reduce mercury. They said they will try to reduce it by 50-percent. But they now put out 400 pounds of mercury every year."

"The main reason we support this initiative and are active in getting the word out is because our children need this, and need us to be their voice," said Terri Glaberson of CoolMom.

"This is an opportunity for us to really make a statement about the energy future about our state," Conlin told the West Seattle Herald. "City Light is carbon-free and committed to a carbon-free future and we want to make sure we spread that word around the state."

And what about "clean coal" that President Obama and other leaders propose?

Conlin responded, "We've been talking about 'clean coal' for 40 years and so far we haven't seen anything, so I'm not sure those two words belong together."

Sierra Club volunteer Andrew Rose agreed, "I'm a grad student at UW and teach communication courses in the environmental studies program. From everyone I talk to there, students and professors, I think 'clean coal' is an oxymoron."

Rose believes the solution to replace Washington's dependance on coal is to ramp up natural gas plants, and develop wind and solar by 2015. "That's plenty of time to make the switch," he said. "Sierra Club has a Beyond Coal Campaign nationwide. Coal plants are closing in Colorado, and Oregon's Boardman Coal Plant is closing (in 2020). Washington should be a leader."

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