Department of Ecology News Release - October 27, 2010


Microsoft Columbia Data Center receives air quality permit to expand

SPOKANE — The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) has issued the final permit allowing Microsoft’s Columbia Data Center in Quincy to expand operations.

The final permit, called a “notice of construction” order, follows a five-week public review and comment period that included a public hearing. The final permit contains revisions to address the concerns people expressed for air quality.

The notice of construction order is a formal approval document that allows Microsoft 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. When all the new generators are installed, they will add the capacity for an extra 32.5 megawatts of backup electricity. That’s in addition to the 60 megawatts already available from the existing 24 generators installed in 2008.

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, called a “third-tier review of the health impact assessment,” required approval by Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant before the generators could be installed. Sturdevant approved the third-tier review on Aug. 20, 2010, and recommended approval of the project pending input from the public.

Based on the nearly 40 questions and comments received, Ecology changed the final permit to enable the community of Quincy to be well-informed about scheduled times and duration of maintenance testing of the generators.

“The final permit is built on sound science and a thorough, expert review,” said Greg Flibbert, Ecology’s project manager for the Columbia Data Center permit. “The questions we received from the public were well thought out and helped us make sure we had covered all the bases for protecting air quality while also ensuring that the local economy can gain from the benefits of Microsoft’s expansion.”

The public comment period began Aug. 26, 2010, and ended Oct. 4, 2010. Ecology hosted a public hearing on Sept. 28 in Quincy to allow people to formally present their questions and concerns to Ecology.

The questions, comments and responses are included in a document called the “Responsiveness Summary,” which totals more than 60 pages. Hard copies of the summary may also be viewed at:


Media Contacts:
Cathy Cochrane, Communications, 509-329-3433;
Jani Gilbert, Communications, 509-329-3645;

For more information:
Responsiveness Summary regarding the draft air quality permit for Microsoft Columbia Data Center Expansion Project (
Second and Third Tier Review Projects (