Far away in the Pacific, to 200 km inland, Centralia deploys proudly its two icons : the volcano and the central. Road 507, we come to grasp the two in the same photo. In the foreground, in the open fields, the coal-fired power plant, monumental, with its three chimneys. In the background, mount Rainier (1 950 m) and his conical hat already dusted with snow.

The smoke of the plant is visible for miles round. In the blue sky of the afternoon, when the fog is dispelled and lets burst the autumn colours, the cloud is a pristine white. “We had the impression that we had the power plant the cleanest in the country,” said machinist Bob Guenther, who has worked there for thirty-four years.

When they saw the smoke from the highway-Seattle-Portland, people were reassured. “It meant that we worked “, said the former worker. “The pollution released in the atmosphere was very minimal,” insists Ron Averill, the delegate of the Farm Bureau, the association that represents 330 farms in the county.

The change was unavoidable

The pride has given way to anxiety. Under an unprecedented agreement with the environmentalists, the unions and the local authorities, the canadian company Transalta, the owner of the facility, agreed in 2011 to close the plant – the first polluter in the State of Washington, with about 10% of the emissions. Four-twenty-eight workers will go to 2020 ; 110 before 2025.

Bob Guenther arrived late at the rendezvous at the Country Cousin, a restaurant whose specialty is the braised beef covered in gravy (sauce) and the bloody mary with bacon. He was skinning a deer that his friend Dennis had hunted the day before : the first game of the season. Striped shirt, pants with suspenders, Bob wears a cap bearing the effigy of the union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The a…