New report slams plans for new coal-fired power plants in Nevada |

New report slams plans for new coal-fired power plants in Nevada

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) ” Nevada would benefit on many levels from investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy rather than new coal-fired power plants, according to an analysis backed by coal plant foes, environmentalists and alternative energy companies.

The ECONorthwest report, commissioned by groups supporting the Nevada Clean Energy Campaign, warns of dire environmental and economic risks if the coal-fired plants are built. Plans for three such plants, by Sierra Pacific Resources, Sithe Global Power and LS Power Associates, are in the works.

Focusing on the Sierra project, the report said problems that need more analysis include the potential for air pollution, lake and river contamination, health problems for workers and loss of tourism at areas such as Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada.

The report also says possible law changes to deal with global warming, such as making such power plants responsible for their carbon dioxide emissions, could add hundreds of millions of dollars to the plants’ annual costs.

While the 49-page report was done for the clean-energy advocates who oppose the coal-fired plants, economist Ernie Niemi, who co-authored the study, said the methodology used in writing it was the same that his company has used for many clients, including utilities.

“We do not work for one side of the fence,” he added during a telephone news conference held to discuss the document.

Participants in the news conference also included Steve Wiel, the Nevada representative on the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project who said Nevada’s demand for new power is growing at about 3 percent a year ” and at least a third of that demand could be met by alternative energy providers.

Wiel, a former Nevada Public Utilities Commission member, also said Gov. Jim Gibbons has not yet set a statewide goal for energy efficiency, and that’s one of many steps that the governor, PUC and state legislators need to take.

The report was praised by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., an opponent of the coal-fired plants, who singled out Sierra Pacific Resources and said, “It’s unbelievable that the people running that company would be pushing for this coal plant.”

David Sims, project director for Sierra’s proposed Ely Energy Center, defended the project and said, “Definitely, we think we’re on the right track.”

Sims said the project is tied to a big transmission line that also could be linked to alternative energy generating facilities, and would utilize new technology to substantially reduce pollution.

He also said the utility supports renewable energy, but there’s a need for a balanced “portfolio of resources” that includes the coal-fired plants.

Groups besides Wiel’s involved in the Nevada Clean Energy Campaign include, among others, the Sierra Club, Western Resource Advocates, Nevada Conservation League, Citizen Alert, National Environmental Trust, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and Great Basin Resource Watch.

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