Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

TransAlta coal mine closes

The TransAlta coal mine in Lewis County has closed.
TransAlta Corp. announced late Monday that it had closed its Centralia coal mine, putting 600 employees out of work and dealing a significant blow to the Lewis County economy.

TransAlta, which operates a coal-fired electrical generating plant in Lewis County, said the 225 workers at the power plant would not be affected by the coal mine's closing, said Doug Jackson, president of TransAlta's U.S. operations.

Union workers at the mine are members of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Jackson said. The Olympian reported in 2000 that mine and plant workers made on average $54,000 a year.
You might recall that one of TransAlta's more prominent employees is TransAlta lobbyist and Republican minority leader Richard DeBolt. He certainly worked hard for TransAlta. From The P-I in 2004:
Legislators often say that what's best for their bosses is best for their districts. Consider Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis. The House Republican leader also serves as "external relations" officer for the TransAlta energy company.

Last year, DeBolt co-sponsored a bill that made small changes to an assortment of tax breaks, aiming to clarify previous legislation. The broadly supported package included a tax break for the Centralia Steam Plant, owned by TransAlta.

"It was more technical corrections," to avoid violating interstate commerce laws than it was a new tax exemption, said DeBolt, who said he had helped push through the original tax break. TransAlta employs 835 in his district, DeBolt said, and the bill "ties (TransAlta) down" to buying coal from the local mine.
According to The Olympian, that coal mine has been open for 35 years. Did TransAlta and DeBolt not know the mine was running out of coal? One would think this would be a fairly obvious scenario, and it raises even more questions about DeBolt's true motivation to pursue the rail spur.

Maybe as Washington state Republicans work themselves into a lather about how to make re-make their party, they could start by not electing ethically challenged lobbyists to lead them.

It's been a stellar year for House GOP members in this state. They started the year with the infamous fake sex offender postcards, and now they end it having been severely damaged in the election. Their leader's own company is sticking it to a heavily Republican community.

Luckily for Lewis County, their Congressman is Democrat Brian Baird, who has pledged to search for new economic development for the area. From today's Olympian article:
"While I understand that TransAlta's decision to close the Centralia mine is based on a lack of resources in the coal mine itself, I am deeply concerned about what the decision means for the employees, their families, and the local economy," U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, said in a prepared statement. "In the long term, we must find ways to bring new industry and economic development to this area."
You see, Baird will put aside the partisan makeup of Lewis County because it's the right thing to do. Something for Republicans to chew on as they consider how to rebuild their shattered party in this state.

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