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BLM Critics: "Old King Coal" Is a Bad Holiday Gift for Nevada


Wednesday, December 26, 2007   

Mesquite, NV – Christmas is over, but "Old King Coal" may be hanging around in Nevada. In Southern Nevada, critics say the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is overlooking clean energy alternatives to a 750-megawatt coal-fired power plant that's been proposed near the town of Mesquite.

Mesquite Mayor Susan Holecheck is concerned that coal-fired power is the only option getting serious consideration.

"Even though they say there will be less emissions and that it's going to be better monitored and controlled, the simple fact is a lot of people, when they know there is a coal-fired plant nearby, will say, 'Oooh, I don't want to live there.'"

Chris Hannefeld, with the BLM office in Ely, says there is a "Plan B," but admits it's not the one that will satisfy environmental groups. A gas-fired plant was already approved for Mesquite, and Hannefeld says that means the other clean energy alternatives probably are off the table.

"The official public comment process is over, but come on, we listen to input all the time and we're going to continue to take it. But if we decided not to sign the Record of Decision approving coal-fire, then the alternative is the already permitted, natural gas-fired power plant."

An economic analysis released in October by ECONorthwest found Nevada could meet its energy demands with renewable energy at less cost and less risk than coal, but Dan Randolph with Great Basin Resource Watch says that's not how the BLM appears to be viewing the Mesquite plant.

"They did not look at alternatives such as efficiency and conservation, or wind and solar, which are very plentiful here in Nevada. They did not look at a proper array of alternatives."

A total of 25 environmental groups have accused the BLM of failing to "rigorously explore and evaluate all reasonable alternatives," which they say is a requirement under federal law. Mayor Holecheck believes the BLM should take a lesson from California, a state that has gone beyond prohibiting the construction of new coal plants. It won't even purchase power that comes from coal.

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