Department of Ecology News Release - February 14, 2011


Public invited to comment on draft permit for Yahoo! Data Center expansion

SPOKANE — The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) invites the public to comment on a proposed “notice of construction” approval order (permit) for the expansion of the Yahoo! Data Center in Quincy.

The approval order is a formal document that allows the company to install 10 new backup generators for use during power failures to support the facility’s data servers. The Yahoo! Data Center was originally built in 2007 after Ecology approved a permit for 13 backup generators. The generators are powered by diesel engines.

Because diesel engine exhaust carries toxic air pollutants, Ecology required to thoroughly evaluate the potential health risks posed by the expansion project. This evaluation is called a “health impact assessment.” Ecology toxicologists reviewed the health impact assessment to determine the level of public health risk.

The potential for several data centers to build or expand in Quincy caused Ecology to take into account the possible effects of diesel exhaust from sources community-wide. This approach required that the permit undergo a “third-tier review.” State law mandates that at the third-tier level, the director of Ecology must review the health impact assessment and recommend approval of the project before the permit can be made final. The director considers staff recommendations, available measures to prevent health impacts, and environmental benefits that could result from approval of the project.

To reduce the potential effects of diesel engine exhaust on Quincy’s air quality, Yahoo! has agreed to cut its annual fuel usage limits and engine operating hours to half of the amounts specified in the original permit. This agreement significantly reduces the risk to human health and the environment.

On Feb. 10, 2011, Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant recommended approval of the project. However, before final approval of the permit, public comment will be considered. Written comments will be taken until March 21, 2011. Send comments to project manager Greg Flibbert, Dept. of Ecology, 4601 N. Monroe St., Spokane, WA 99205, or email

In addition, a public hearing is scheduled to be held Thursday, March 17, in the upstairs meeting room at the Quincy City Hall, 104 B St. SW. Pre-hearing activities will begin at 5:30 p.m., with presentations and discussion at 6:15 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.

Here’s where you can review copies of the draft permit and the health assessment:

Ecology will review and respond to all comments. The draft permit may be amended based on the comments Ecology receives.


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