Department of Ecology News Release - September 2, 2010

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Public invited to comment on draft permit for Microsoft Columbia Data Center expansion

SPOKANE - The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) invites the public to comment on a proposed “notice of construction” order (permit) for the expansion of the Microsoft Columbia Data Center, in Quincy. The notice is a formal approval document that allows the company to install 13 new backup generators for use during power failures to support the facility’s data servers. The generators are powered by diesel engines.

Diesel engine exhaust particulate is a toxic air pollutant. Because of this, Ecology required a thorough evaluation of the health risks posed by the expansion project. This evaluation is called a “third-tier review of the health impact assessment” and the director of Ecology must approve it before the generators are installed.

The Microsoft Columbia Data Center was built in 2008 after Ecology approved a permit for installing and operating 24 electrical generators, capable of producing 60 megawatts of emergency backup electrical power. The expansion would add 32.5 megawatts of backup electricity.

The original construction did not involve the in-depth health assessment that is required now. This is partly because state rules governing such reviews have changed since 2008, but also because of the way Ecology views the evolution of data center construction in Quincy.

Considered by itself, the Microsoft expansion would not necessitate the third-tier review. But due to the interest expressed by other data companies to expand or build in the Quincy area, Ecology was concerned that the cumulative effect of diesel engine emissions should be assessed. This approach elevated Ecology’s review of Microsoft’s permit request to the director’s level.

On Aug. 20, 2010, Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant approved the permit to expand. The public is invited to comment on this decision. A public hearing is scheduled to be held Tuesday, Sept. 28, in the council chambers at the Quincy City Hall, 104B St. SW, Quincy. Pre-hearing presentations and discussion will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by the hearing at 7 p.m. The hearing will continue until everyone who wants to testify has had the opportunity to do so.

The public also may comment in writing to Ecology until Oct. 4, 2010. Documents about the permit and the health assessment are available for review at the Department of Ecology, Eastern Regional Office, Air Quality Program, 4601 N. Monroe St., Spokane, WA. Or contact Greg Flibbert at 509-329-3452 or gfli461@ecy.wa.gov. They also are available at the City of Quincy, 104 B St. SW, Quincy, WA and on Ecology’s website: www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/Tier2/Tier2_final.html

Comments may be submitted to Gregory Flibbert, Air Quality Program, Department of Ecology, Eastern Regional Office, 4601 N. Monroe St., Spokane, WA 99205-1295, or by email to gfli461@ecy.wa.gov

Ecology will review and respond to all comments. The documents could be amended based on the comments Ecology receives.

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Media Contacts:

Cathy Cochrane, Communications, 509-329-3433; ccoc461@ecy.wa.gov or Jani Gilbert, Communications, 509-329-3645; jagi461@ecy.wa.gov

For more information: www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/Tier2/Tier2_final.html