RELEASE: PacifiCorp’s Plan to Burn Fossil Fuels Into 2040s Contradicts Scientific Consensus on Slowing Climate Change

Salt Lake City (September 1, 2021) — A regional coalition of conservation groups commented on PacifiCorp’s 2021 Integrated Resource Plan that was filed today in the six states the utility serves, highlighting the plan’s failure to meet the recommendations of global scientists to transition away from all fossil fuels, as the utility intends to keep coal and gas generation in its resource mix well into the 2040s.

Scientists say that In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, we must curtail greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero economy-wide and globally by 2050. Decarbonizing the electric sector within the next 15 years is key to achieving this. PacifiCorp has made some progress in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of its resource mix and is in the process of adding significant amounts of clean energy and storage resources. PacifiCorp’s plan will add additional renewable generation and appears to approach needed emissions reductions by 2030; however, the utility intends to run many of its coal-fired power plants well into the 2040s and convert its Jim Bridger coal plant in Wyoming to fossil-fuel gas.

“Across Utah and the West, the intensifying effects of climate change are evident, from record-breaking heat to prolonged drought, erratic weather patterns, intense wildfires, and toxic air pollution,” said Sophie Hayes, Western Resource Advocates’ senior staff attorney in Salt Lake City. “PacifiCorp says it will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 74% by 2030 and 98% by 2050, compared with 2005 levels. However, in order to avoid climate crisis, we must reduce emissions from the power sector at least 80% by 2030 and be net-zero by 2035, to support decarbonizing the rest of the economy. Western Resource Advocates will be scrutinizing PacifiCorp’s plan to ensure that the utility will indeed be taking the needed steps to achieve its planned emissions reductions and more.”

“As the owner of the largest coal fleet in the West, PacifiCorp has begun to make progress on decarbonizing its generation, but it still has a long way to go,” noted Fred Heutte, senior policy associate with the NW Energy Coalition. “New clean energy and climate legislation in the Northwest and the reality of climate-driven extreme weather require greater effort from PacifiCorp to accelerate the transition to a 100% clean power system and bring dramatic economic and reliability benefits to customers.”

“The bottom line is that this utility refuses to take climate change seriously, despite the irrefutable evidence that increased drought and wildfires are already severely impacting the health and well-being of their customers and the security of the regional power grid,” said Lindsay Beebe, Sierra Clubs Beyond Coal senior campaign representative. “PacifiCorp is one of the country’s largest greenhouse gas polluters, which means their responsibility to act is greater than almost any other single entity in the West. New, modest gains in near-term clean energy commitments, and maintaining a massive coal-burning capacity into 2040 and beyond doesn’t cut it. As a monopoly corporation that has been using millions of publicly furnished dollars to fight pollution controls on their coal plants, ignore climate change science and waste years of precious time with inaction, they don’t get a gold star for doing the bare minimum.”

“Our future is dependent on the changes made today,” said Meisei Gonzalez, a representative from the Healthy Environment Alliance Of Utah (HEAL Utah). “We have evidence showing that there will be devastating impacts in our future that we no longer can fix, but we know that if we hold big polluters accountable and push for these set goals, we will avoid the worst. These reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are not negotiable. The IPCC report shows us that our window of opportunity is here, and there is no time to waste when it comes to the future of our climate.”  

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of global scientists convened by the United Nations, noted in its major new report released last month that some of the devastating impacts of climate change cannot be averted, due to our decades of fossil fuel use. According to the most recent climate report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, greenhouse gas emissions last year rose to their highest levels in human history. But scientists say we still have a small window of time to act and take steps that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

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Western Resource Advocates provides on the ground solutions to climate change. WRA works with policymakers and other advocates to advance clean energy; protect air, land, water, and wildlife; and sustain the lives and livelihoods of the West. For more information, visit westernresourceadvocates.org and follow us on Twitter @wradv and #ProtectTheWest.

Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.
The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah: The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah) has been an environmental advocacy organization, watchdog, and strategic influencer in Utah since 1999. By empowering grassroots advocates, using science-based solutions, and developing common-sense policy, HEAL has a track record of tackling some of the biggest threats to Utah’s environment and public health — and succeeding. The organization focuses on clean air, energy and climate, and radioactive waste. HEAL uses well-researched legislative, regulatory, and individual responsibility approaches to create tangible change and then utilizes grassroots action to make it happen. www.healutah.org

NW Energy Coalition (NWEC) is an alliance of over 100 environmental, civic, and human service organizations, utilities, and businesses in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia, plus many individual members.  We support the development of a carbon-free energy system that equitably meets the needs of people and preserves the region’s natural resources.