WATCH: Oregon’s last coal-fired power plant has been demolished

BOARDMAN, Ore. — Before the boom that marked the implosion of Boardman’s coal-fired power plant, county officials and Portland General Electric employees reflected on the so-called community icon.

“It’s sort of bittersweet,” Morrow County Commissioner Don Russell said.

“A lot of emotion here, I was the plant manager,” VP of Utility Operations for PGE Brad Jenkins added.

Forty years ago, the coal-fired energy plant in Boardman brought 125 jobs to the small town. Commissioner Russell said in the 80’s, the town only had a few hundred residents.

“For Morrow County at one time, this plant was our largest taxpayer by a really large margin,” he explained.

Since then, the area has had exponential growth. Boardman now has a population of over 3,000, according to the US Census.

Jenkins called the power plant a ‘workhorse’ for the utility company.

“It was the right place at the right time with the right community. Lot of wire, lot of tubes, lot of equipment; the people made this plant,” he said.

County Commissioner Russell said he can see the smoke stack from his house, and it’s become a marker of the community since it was built.

“The diversity that PGE brought to our economy was really an important part of everything,” he said prior to PGE leaving its mark in Boardman, their economy was primarily driven by agriculture.

As the years past, in came the realization and call for more renewable sources of energy throughout Oregon.

That’s where the Carty Generating Station, fueled by natural gas, came in.

“As we planned for the demolition of Boardman, the closure of Boardman, our Carty plant came online back in 2014,” Jenkins said.

Carty, as they call it, is located near the Boardman plant.

In 2020, the plant was taken offline; the final coal plant in Oregon left. The only other coal plant left in the Pacific Northwest is located in Centralia, Washington, operated by TransAlta since 1973.

“Because of growth in other areas, we haven’t seen a tremendous impact from the closure of the Boardman Coal Fire plant,” Commissioner Russell said.

At 10 AM on Thursday morning, the explosives went off, and the Boardman plant and stack, imploded. Officials, employees and community members gathered to watch the monumental event.

But as summer’s get hotter, and more consumers demand energy from Oregon’s grid, Jenkins said they’ll need even more renewable sources of energy to take on the load.

“We’ll have to add more to replace a resource like this, and of course, these gas plants, these thermal plants will be the backbone as we work thru our transition,” he said Carty will be their new workhorse for energy in Oregon.

Workers called it a symbolic day, representing the work from Boardman to power Oregonian’s homes and businesses, and the transition into a state with completely emission-free energy.

“Whether you’re against coal or not, this plant has played a vital role in Oregon and in the west in general, and we’re making the transition.”