Reid ‘strongly opposed’ to coal-fired plants for Nevada
CARSON CITY (AP) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday he’ll do “everything I can” to stop construction of three major coal-fired power plants in his home state of Nevada and will push for more alternative energy development.
It would make sense politically to support the proposed eastern Nevada projects but “I can’t do it. My conscience wouldn’t let me,” Reid told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Two of the projects are near Ely and the third is near Mesquite. Reid said the Ely-area projects alone would require millions of tons of coal a year that in turn would generate millions of tons of pollution, adding, “I just can’t do that. I’m going to do everything I can to stop it.”
“All these power moguls want to do is to steal our air and water,” Reid said, adding that the power plants might be good for economic development in rural areas “but this isn’t good for Nevada. I can’t comprehend how much coal would be used.”
Reid commented after sending letters to the heads of Reno-based Sierra Pacific Resources, Sithe Global Power LLC in New York, LS Power in New Jersey and Dynegy Inc. in Texas. Sierra Pacific and Sithe Global have separate projects while LS Power and Dynegy are developing the third project.
His statement drew praise from environmental groups while representatives of the companies planning the projects defended them as necessary given the explosive growth in the Southwest, especially in Las Vegas, and scheduled shutdowns of older plants. In his letter, Reid said he’s strongly opposed to the plants and the state’s financial and ratepayer resources “should be heavily focused on rapid and significant investments in clean renewable energy and energy efficiency.”
Reid said he’s concerned about global warming and it would be “prudent for Nevada, the United States and the entire world” to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Rather than spend billions of dollars on the plants, Reid said the money could be used to install solar systems on several hundred thousand homes around Nevada.
The majority leader wrote that because he believes renewable energy is preferable, “I will use every means at my disposal to prevent the construction of new coal-fired power plants in Nevada that do not capture and permanently store green house gas emissions.”
Tom Johns, vice president of Sithe Global which is planning a $1 billion, 750-megawatt plant near Mesquite, in Lincoln County, said Reid “is entitled to his own opinion. The senator also is not in favor of nuclear power. So you wonder what the senator really views as a source of power.”
Johns added that Sithe Global is developing renewable energy sources but “there’s clearly a need for base-load power that’s available 24 hours a day.” Coal-fired plants provide that but sources such as solar or wind power are variable, he added.
Eric Crawford, project manager for the $3.7 billion, 1,500-megawatt power plant near Ely, in White Pine County, that LS Power and Dynegy want to build would be “a very clean, very efficient facility that certainly would comply with all federal, state and local standards.”
“We think you need diversity and not one fuel is the solution,” Crawford added. “You have to use them all.” He added that LS Power and Dynegy plan to invest “hundreds of millions of dollars” into renewable energy.
Michael Yakira, president and chief operating officer of Sierra Pacific Resources, said his company “respectfully disagrees” with Reid’s position on the coal plants, adding that the plants shouldn’t “be measured with the same yardstick because they are not by any means alike.”
Yakira said Sierra’s $3.7 billion Ely Energy Center, which would generate 1,500 megawatts of electricity, “would definitely be in the best interests of our state since it will provide technological advantages that will allow us to shut down older, existing coal facilities.”
Yakira also said the state Public Utilities Commission has “given us a mandate to proceed with initial development plans for the Ely Center.”
Support for Reid’s move came from the Sierra Club, Interwest Energy Alliance, Nevada Conservation League, Western Resource Advocates, Nevada Wildlife Federation, National Parks Conservation Association and others.
“Sen. Reid is right. Nevada has enough wind and enough sun to power its way into the future,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club.
Kyle Davis of the Nevada Conservation League said it’s encouraging “to see an elected official in our state actually do what’s right in terms of pollution and promoting renewable resources.” He said he hoped other elected officials would follow suit.
Kevin Cabble of the Nevada Wildlife Federation and Don Duff of Trout Unlimited praised Reid for his strong support of renewable energy sources, saying pollutants from coal-fired power plants would contaminate lakes and streams.
Marty Hayden of Earthjustice said, “A real leader practices what he preaches, and that is what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did today when he spoke out against the planned construction of three new coal-fired power plants in Nevada.”