This editorial appeared in The (Tacoma) News Tribune.
The revelation that Gov. Chris Gregoire's advisers have secretly struck a deal with the owners of the state's only coal–fired power plant has sparked concern among more than environmentalists.
Open government advocates are also justifiably troubled by what could be an unintended consequence of a 2005 law intended to make mediation a more attractive option.
Apparently, the law has worked so well that now the state has used it to shield its negotiations with TransAlta over mercury and nitrogen oxide emissions from the company's Centralia plant.
As The Seattle Times noted, such regulations are usually crafted through a public process that makes more documents and agency deliberations open for public review.
News of the closed–door talks – which began in 2007 but were only recently revealed – has environmentalists and at least one federal official questioning both the process and the result.
TransAlta has agreed to reduce nitrogren–oxide pollution by 20 percent this year and to cut mercury emissions in half by 2012. But some critics wonder if the state could have driven a harder bargain – and what state officials gave up in exchange for TransAlta's concessions.
To read the complete editorial, visit The (Tacoma) News Tribune.