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Residents Oppose Coal-Fired Power Plant

Nov 12, 2007 - Las Vegas Review-Journal

Meetings on a proposed 750-megawatt, coal-fired plant drew numerous opponents in Mesquite and St. George, Utah, but only a few environmentalists to a meeting late Thursday in Las Vegas.

About 70 Mesquite residents attended a public meeting Wednesday on the proposed Toquop Energy Project while 250 attended a meeting in St. George.

The plant site is 12 miles from Mesquite and 40 northeast of St. George, where some residents fear the project would pollute the communities' relatively clean air.

During a meeting at the Cora Coleman Senior Center in Las Vetas, Steve Rypka of Henderson called building a coal-fired power plant "ecological suicide." The coal plant would emit large quantities of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming, he said.

"Really, the impact is forever," Rypka said. "This plant may burn for 50 years. It will be affecting our climate for hundreds of years after that."

Rypka argued that Nevada could satisfy its power needs through energy conservation and renewable energy, such as wind, solar and geothermal power.

Brian Buchanan, who wore a Sierra Club T-shirt, said the federal government is expected to start regulating carbon dioxide emissions, which would make energy from coal more expensive.

"We're coming into a carbon regulated future. It's coming down the pike very soon. These are costs that will be passed on to ratepayers down the road," Buchanan said.

With Nevada's abundant renewable energy, the coal project "just doesn't seem to make sense for our state," Buchanan said. The project would be located on 640 acres of federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM issued a draft environmental impact statement on the Toquop Energy Project on Oct. 12. The federal agency is holding meetings at affected communities to let the public comment before BLM issues a final environmental impact statement and decides whether to approve the use of the federal land for the project.

Sithe Global Power, the Houston-based developer of Toquop, also needs an air permit from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.

Sithe obtained BLM approval in 2003 to build a 1,100-megawatt plant that would burn natural gas on the site. But the power developer decided to construct a coal plant instead, in part because natural gas prices are volatile and a higher cost than coal. The power plant operator could sign long-term contracts with utilities because coal prices are more stable.

Sithe representatives contend that the new plant would replace old coal plants that burn coal less efficiently and spew more air pollutants. The company hopes to start construction next year.