Nevada Denies Plea to Delay New Coal Power Plants
Author: Bernie Woodall
Air permits for the plants, which if built could serve
about 2.5 million Nevada homes, may be approved by the end of
the year, said Scot Rutledge of the Nevada Conservation League,
who attended Friday's session in state capital Carson City.
The 11-member environmental panel -- largely appointed by
Gov. Jim Gibbons, who was against a permitting suspension --
denied a request to suspend the approval process for air
permits until Nevada sets greenhouse gas emission caps.
The petitioners, led by environmental group Western
Resource Advocates, wanted the commission to delay the Nevada
Division of Environmental Protection from issuing the permits.
After a hearing lasting most of Friday afternoon, Western
Resource Advocates said its next steps may be taken in court.
"If carbon dioxide is a pollutant, which the US Supreme
Court says it is, and the Department of Environmental
Protection of Nevada has the authority to regulate pollutants
and they aren't doing it, I guess we should ask some judge to
look into it," said Charles Benjamin, director at Western
Resource Advocates Nevada.
While reliable as a source of electricity, conventional
coal-fired power plants emit higher levels of carbon dioxide --
the major contributor of greenhouse gases that cause global
warming -- than do natural gas and nuclear power plants or
renewable sources like solar, wind and geothermal energy.
US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat,
has said he will try to wield his influence against coal-fired
power in his state.
But in a letter to the environmental commission, Republican
Gov. Gibbons said the three coal plants would diversify the
state's energy mix and to keep it from importing about half of
its electricity, which he said costs US$1.5 billion a year.
And, Gibbons wrote, the state can't rely on major renewable
sources of power for years to come.
"While there is a lot of well-founded excitement about
Nevada's renewable resources, we must recognize that it will be
years before these facilities can come on line in a meaningful
way," Gibbons said. "They are intermittent sources that can not
be relied upon exclusively for reliable baseload energy."
The proposed plants are the 1,600-megawatt White Pine plant
by LS Power Group, the 1,500-MW Ely Energy Center by Sierra
Pacific Resources, and the 750-MW Toquop Energy Project
by Sithe Global Power, which is owned 80 percent by Blackstone
Group and 20 percent by Reservoir Capital Group.