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Coal Plant Opposition Mounts in Nevada

Aug 8, 2007 - Powernews

Opposition in Nevada is rapidly building against plans for three new coal-fired plants in the state. Most telling for the opponents of the projects is the opposition of the state's most important political leader, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader.

In a letter to officials in the state late last month, Reid said, Nevada should be a national leader in renewable energy and energy independence. Building another inefficient and polluting coal plant in the heart of our state would be a gigantic step away from that goal. Reid suggested adoption of the Nevada Energy Independence Plan, developed in 2006 by then state consumer advocate Jon Wellinghof, pushing renewables, energy efficiency, and demand-side measures. Wellinghof is now a commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Reid advanced his nomination.

Seven environmental groups last week asked the State Environmental Commission to put the coal plans on hold until the state agency can issue standards for carbon dioxide emissions. The state should require that any new power plants in Nevada be built in a way that helps protect the climate and doesn't make our lives worse, said the filing, led by the Nevada Conservation League. The groups are calling for a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2/MWh of generation, saying that the current rate is about 3,000 pounds.

Nevada-based utility holding company Sierra Pacific Resources and New Jersey non-utility generator LS Power want to build new coal plants near Ely, Nev. Sithe Global Power, an independent based in New York, wants to build a plant in Lincoln County. The Sierra Pacific project would be a 1,500 MW plant, while LS Power's would be 1,600 MW. Sithe's plant capacity would be 750 MW.

Despite Reid's opposition, there is significant political support in Nevada for the coal plants. Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons isn't joining the blacken coal bandwagon. Gibbons told the Associated Press that new coal technology minimizes the production of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas emissions. I'm anxious to see the alternatives proposed by Sen. Reid for the coal plants. I've been proposing all along that we look at developing geothermal, solar and wind energy.