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Coal Power Plant Debate

Nevada Power reached a settlement with the Environmental Protection Department on pollution from its Reid-Gardner coal-fired plant, shown in 2007, near Moapa.

Photo by Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Nevada Power reached a settlement with the Environmental Protection Department on pollution from its Reid-Gardner coal-fired plant, shown in 2007, near Moapa.

Nevada is shaping up as the battle ground for a decision on the future of electric generation in the United States. But it’s not nuclear power and Yucca Mountain being debated this time. Instead Nevada is at the center of the debate over coal-fired power plants, which provide about half the nation’s electricity.

Are EPA coal emission standards strict enough?

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Three new plants are proposed for the Silver State, and environmental groups say their effects would be deadly to both the environment and to human health. They also say the tide is turning against coal, as evidenced by the 59 coal plant plans canceled, abandoned, or put on hold last year - despite a resurgence in coal plant proposals earlier this decade. They also point to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s outspoken opposition to new coal plants as an advantage.

But utilities and power plant developers say coal will be necessary to keep neon lights bright and air conditioners whirring in rapidly-growing Las Vegas as well as other parts of the desert Southwest. They say coal is an important part of their plan to provide cheap, reliable power.

Environmentalists, on the other hand, say new demands for power can be met with renewable energy, including Nevada’s rich solar and geothermal resources, and with energy conservation. They also question whether coal will really provide low-cost power, as the price tags for new plants rise and Congress debates potentially costly carbon caps and taxes.

Meanwhile, proposals for the three plants in Nevada march on. Two 1,500 megawatt plants are proposed outside Ely, in White Pine County, and another 750 megawatt plant is proposed near Mesquite in Clark County. The plants all face several regulatory hurdles – including approval by Nevada’s Environmental Protection Division and the federal Bureau of Land Management – before construction on a new generation of coal power can begin.

Together, they could power about 2.8 million average single-family homes and would produce more than 30 million tons per year of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Phoebe Sweet

Archive highlights

No small worry

Fri, Mar 7, 2008

Opponents of the coal-fired power plants proposed for Nevada say one of the public’s biggest concerns should be the tiny particles that will come out of the plants’ smokestacks. The ...

We all need power, but in Mesquite, priority is clean air

Thu, Feb 7, 2008

Hundreds of people are expected to rally tonight at Mesquite City Hall in opposition to construction of a coal-fired power plant in nearby Lincoln County, in the latest showdown over ...

More help urged for ‘green’ energy

Mon, Jan 28, 2008

Almost lost in the public debate over coal-fired power versus renewable energy is how to get both kinds of power from the plants where it’s produced to the cities where ...

Coal plant debate intensifies

Wed, Jan 23, 2008

More than 200 people turned out for a public meeting in Ely this month to alternately laud and condemn the construction of a coal-fired power plant, which was proposed by ...

All stories

Second thoughts on coal plants are contagious, it seems

Wed, Feb 11, 2009

The announcement may have proved the environmental version of the domino theory — when one coal plant falls, the next isn’t far behind.

Coal-fired power plant challenged, endorsed

Wed, Jan 21, 2009

Clean-energy proponents want a federal panel to block a proposed coal-burning power plant in eastern Nevada, while Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., is urging Gov. Jim Gibbons to move ahead with ...

Foes of coal see hope in cancellation of Iowa plant

Mon, Jan 12, 2009

LS Power, a developer proposing a large, coal-fired power plant near Ely, last week canceled plans for a similar plant in Iowa, and opponents of both plants are hailing the ...

Up in smoke: Future of 3 proposed Nevada coal plants in jeopardy

Sat, Nov 15, 2008

The Environmental Protection Agency’s rejection of a permit for a Utah coal plant this week spells trouble for three coal-fired power plants proposed in Nevada.

Nevada Power to become NV Energy

Mon, Sep 22, 2008

Sierra Pacific Resources, parent company to Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific Power companies at the two ends of the state, announced today that it will change its name to NV ...

Coal foes hope film riles up Nevadans

Thu, Sep 4, 2008

Environmentalists said it was a sign that a wave of coal plant proposals across the country was finally ebbing when an unlikely coalition of environmentalists, small-town mayors, ranchers and other ...

Turning desert green comes with caveats

Thu, Aug 28, 2008

It was clear that conservation groups would oppose coal plans in the Nevada desert. Less clear was how they would react when solar developers announced they would build huge arrays ...

Rising costs cheer coal plant foes

Tue, Aug 19, 2008

Nevada’s environmental commission gathered in the fall in Carson City to consider a request from environmental groups to stop granting permits for new coal-fired power plants.

But turbines would scare off the deer, elk ...

Sat, Aug 16, 2008

Before Nevada can become the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy, it will have to come to peace with the hunters in Lincoln County.

Reid summit in green spotlight

Sat, Aug 16, 2008

The biggest name on the program for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s first energy summit, last summer, was Harry Reid. And even he slipped out of the Reno Peppermill after ...

Was Reid’s slur on coal an impolitic truth?

Thu, Jul 10, 2008

Sen. Harry Reid has a knack for blurting out the one thing nagging in the back of some people’s minds — the thing few people of his stature dare to ...

‘Green wave’ aims to sweep Hispanics into cause

Wed, Jun 4, 2008

A pair of uncombed, college-aged Mexican pop singers tonight will usher in the first attempt by a national environmental organization to target Nevada’s Hispanics.

Planned coal plant gives up its water source

Tue, May 6, 2008

Sithe Global Power has to have water for its 750-megawatt Toquop plant but has let the contract with its water supplier lapse. Opponents of the plant are hoping that’s the ...

A coal-fired discussion

Sun, May 4, 2008

Proposals to build coal-fired power plants have brought the debate over global climate change home to Nevadans. Coal provides half the nation’s electricity, and a fifth of Nevada’s power, but ...

Scientist wants Gibbons to nix support of coal

Wed, Apr 16, 2008

The Desert Research Institute will give the Nevada Medal — a national award for scientific achievement — to renowned climate scientist James Hansen, who will present new research on global ...


Face to Face: Are Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific doing enough?
Face to Face: Are Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific doing enough?
Why is Nevada Power's parent company determined to build coal-fired power plants in Nevada when ...
Face to Face: Coal-hearted
Face to Face: Coal-hearted
Is coal the best option for affordable energy in Nevada? Jon talks with a prponent ...

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