Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012 | 7:10 p.m.
CARSON CITY — The federal Environmental Protection Agency has given the green light to NV Energy to continue operations at the coal burning Reid Gardner plant as long as it installs controls to reduce the air pollution.
The 63-page ruling signed by EPA administrator Lisa Jackson ignores the call by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the plant to close because of its pollution problems.
Jackson said the state and federal controls will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 4,000 tons per year.
The Sierra Club and the Moapa Band of Paiutes located near the plant had also called for its closure.
There were complaints the haze caused by the pollution contributed to the visibility at the Jarbidge Wilderness area and in the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon.
The issue is also being played out before the Nevada Public Utilities Commission. The utility said the commission will continue to examine the issue of the life span of the plant. The Sierra Club says that enough conservation measures could be installed to offset the loss of power from Reid Gardner. But NV Energy says the calculations by the Sierra Club are faulty and would result in high rates even with consumers using less energy.
Rob Stillwell, spokesman for NV Energy, said the EPA ruling was good news. He emphasized this plan for the controls was authored by the Nevada EPA with the help of NV Energy.
Stillwell said this additional equipment to control the haze has not yet been installed. Stillwell said Reid Gardner was one of the cleanest plants in the nation before the federal EPA adopted its new regulations on haze control which this fight is about.
Reid had no comment on the EPA decision. Kristen Orthman, press secretary for Reid, said the senator still believes the plant should be closed. Earlier Reid had complained, "Each year for the last 47 years, more than 2.8 million tons of climate-changing carbon dioxide — not to mention thousands of pounds of toxins such as arsenic, mercury and lead — go up in the plant's four giant smokestacks."
A spokesman for the Sierra Club could not be reached for immediate comment.
The company issued a statement last week that new technology captures 99 percent of particulate emissions. The EPA said the new controls by NV Energy would collect 85 percent of the NO2 that is emitted.
The company also said hundreds of jobs are produced by the plant. The first two units started in 1965 and 1968. The third was added in 1996. The plant is able to produce enough electricity to serve approximately 335,000 Nevada households.
The EPA noted NV Energy buys its coal from Utah and it produces a high amount of NO2. It said the utility can consider acquiring its coal from other locations where the pollution factor is smaller.
The company estimates it will have to spend $26.5 million initially and then $4.3 million annually to comply with the EPA standards.