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Lawmakers consider ending tax loophole for largest polluter in WA

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – As lawmakers continue their efforts to close Washington State’s multi-billion dollar budget gap, environmentalists are urging them to close a tax loophole for the state’s largest polluter. Washington State could save $5 million per year by ending the tax break for TransAlta, the Canadian company that owns a coal-fired power plant in Centralia.

Ethan Bergerson, associate regional representative for the Sierra Club’s Coal-Free Washington Campaign, says ending the tax break would make sense, both for health reasons and to help the state’s economy.

“We are proposing a solution which will actually create jobs in Washington by taking money which currently goes to the TranAlta coal plant, our state’s largest polluter, and putting it into clean energy workforce development investments. ”

A spokesperson for Gov. Gregoire says she opposes ending the tax break because she wants to maintain employment and well-paying jobs. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown has included repeal of TransAlta’s exemption in a consolidated package of bills closing corporate tax loopholes.

The governor says she is trying protect 300 jobs at the coal-fired power plant, but Bergerson says the tax break was actually designed to help the previous owners of the plant keep an adjacent coal mine going. History shows that did not work, he adds.

“In 2006, the TransAlta Corporation laid-off 600 workers at the coal mine and shutdown the mine; these jobs are no longer there. This tax giveaway does nothing to protect workers; it just lines the pockets of our state’s worst corporate polluter.”

Last year, the Senate tried but failed to redirect some of the money from the tax break for the purpose of helping displaced workers. Now, the Senate is looking to end the entire tax break.

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