Environmental Aspects

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Energy Northwest ​​​​​reviews all its activities for potential impact on the environment, and has identified those aspects that could have a significant impact if they were not controlled. This information is used to​ develop programs to prevent or mitigate potential impacts and to establish prioritized goals, objectives, and targets for continually improving ​performance​.​​ 

Read our Environmental Stewardship Policy

Environmental aspects​: 

 Waste generation

​As a byproduct of our operations, we generate waste. These wastes include materials common to many businesses such as paper, aerosol cans, batteries, oils, paints and construction debris. Operation of the Columbia Generating Station also results in the generation of hazardous and radioactive waste streams subject to additional regulation and special handling requirements. These wastes are carefully managed in compliance with stringent State of Washington Department of Ecology regulations.

In 2012, Columbia Generating Station reduced its generator status for hazardous and mixed waste. Previously, the station was a large quantity generator; and now, a medium quantity generator. All other agency sites are small quantity generators. 

We handle our waste in various ways, including non-hazardous and hazardous waste recycling, onsite treatment to reduce hazard or volume, accumulation for offsite disposal and operation of an inert waste landfill.

Energy Northwest seeks to minimize its generation of waste, especially hazardous and radioactive waste. We conduct pollution prevention opportunity assessments to identify and implement activities that reduce waste and we have a comprehensive recycling program. The major objectives of the Radioactive Waste Management Program are to limit, control, minimize, and measure the production of radioactive materials in solid waste, gaseous emissions and liquid discharges.

 Atmospheric emissions

​In accordance with federal and state regulations, Energy Northwest operations are permitted to release a limited amount of gaseous emissions to the air. These emissions come from different sources, such as the use of diesel fuel in boilers and engines, use of refrigerants and solvents, fire suppression training, demolition of old asbestos-containing materials, and operations of the Columbia Generating Station.

As a clean energy provider, Energy Northwest seeks to minimize any hazardous and radioactive emissions to the air, both through careful controls and through minimizing the use of fuels and materials that create hazardous gases.

 Liquid discharges

In accordance with federal and state regulations, Energy Northwest operations at Columbia Generating Station are permitted to release a limited amount of wastewater to the Columbia River. This water is tested to verify compliance with the agency's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and automatically isolates water flow if necessary. The Station uses water from the Columbia River as cooling water in its routine operation. Wastewater is treated, routinely tested for metals, chemicals, and radionuclides, and then returned to the river. We also maintain a sanitary wastewater treatment facility for all our routine operations.

 Storage or use of chemicals or radioactive materials

As an industrial facility operator, Energy Northwest purchases a variety of petroleum, chemical, and radioactive materials that we store and use onsite. These include diesel fuel and gasoline, solvents and other chemicals, and new and spent nuclear fuel.

Energy Northwest seeks to minimize its storage or use of materials that may pose a risk to the environment, including petroleum, chemicals, and radioactive materials. Our Chemical Management Program for Columbia Generating Station was initiated as an industry good practice for controlling chemicals harmful to plant systems, structures, components, and personnel. The program is based on pre-screening and approval of chemicals for specific uses through the issuance of chemical “permits.” In addition to minimizing the unintentional contamination of process fluids and reducing the potential for corrosion of system component materials, the program contains elements to minimize fire hazards, the use of hazardous substances, chemical exposures to personnel, and the generation of hazardous and mixed wastes.

Our Pollution Prevention Program seeks to replace the use of hazardous materials with non-hazardous substitutes, such as latex paint instead of solvent based paint. To reduce exposure to PCB issues, Energy Northwest undertook a transformer retro fill program, converting PCB-contaminated transformers and capacitors to non-PCB equivalents. Removal of these chemicals greatly reduced the potential for a spill and environmental contamination.

 Land use

Energy Northwest seeks to reduce its “footprint” on the natural landscape whenever possible. In fact, nuclear energy requires less land use than most forms of energy. New projects, in particular, have the potential to result in adverse environmental impacts due to land use. These potential impacts include erosion by wind and water, destruction of wildlife habitat, introduction of noxious weeds, disturbance of cultural or public resources and diminished aesthetic values. These impacts are anticipated and minimized through a comprehensive work planning and control process.

For example, the development of the Nine Canyon Wind Project required careful land use planning to reduce negative environmental impact. Our wind turbines were located on existing agricultural fields, which provides additional income to local farmers and helps maintain their fields as open space in active agricultural use.

Additionally, the agency utilizes land to reduce impacts and risks to natural resources and pursue opportunities to improve the environment. In 2012, Energy Northwest installed artificial burrows in previously disturbed areas to attract burrowing owls. The shrub-steppe habitat and open grassland of southeastern Washington provides ideal nesting grounds and ample sources of food for these listed species of concern. Creating and maintaining nesting sites is important to the recovery of the owls, because they tend to show fidelity to areas where they have fledged or successfully established a nest.

 Energy consumption

​Energy Northwest actively supports efforts to promote energy efficiency and conservation and seeks to reduce its consumption of energy at its facilities.  Energy generation of all kinds impacts natural resources and the environment.  For example, hydroelectricity facilities, 84% of the Pacific Northwest energy mix, can impact the local habitat of sensitive species (e.g. salmon), cause entrainment/impingement of aquatic organisms, and cause contamination of surface water. All energy sources have some level of environmental impact.

Reduction in energy consumption reduces the cost of operating Energy Northwest facilities reducing cost of generation ultimately saving rate payers.  Additionally, energy conservation is a means to reduce demand for electric power and delay the need for new power generating facilities.

 Carbon free energy generation

​Energy Northwest is a clean energy provider, and is committed to providing reliable, affordable, environmentally responsible electricity to the Northwest power grid. The company continues to explore and develop new, carbon-free energy generation opportunities and implement enhancements to existing projects to achieve generation efficiency.