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Toquop’s Impact on Water and the National Coal Debate

March 29, 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The promise of more jobs and increased public health captured the headlines last week when it was announced the Toquop power plant would be switching from coal-fire to natural gas, but environmentalists say there is also big news in the amount of water savings the switch will bring. Now, the national debate over coal is expected to shift from Nevada to two other states where Blackstone still plans to build coal-fired plants.

Sierra Club conservation organizer Emily Rodenbaugh says Sen. Harry Reid and Mesquite Mayor Susan Holecheck deserve credit for bringing jobs to the state, while at the same time protecting public health. And, a bonus will be the water savings backers say will be achieved by the switch, she says.

"We're also very excited that this natural gas facility, could use 60 to 70 percent less water than the coal facility. This is important for Nevada with scarce water resources."

Until last week, Nevada was considered by many to be center-stage in the national debate over coal. But, now, Rhodenbaugh believes the spotlight will shift to New Mexico and Pennsylvania, where Blackstone still plans two coal-fired plants. She hopes the company makes another announcement soon that will follow their decision in Nevada.

"We believe that moving beyond coal will create opportunities to grow the nation's sustainable energy economy, and produce important jobs that these states need right now; rather than dirty, dangerous, dinosaur coal plants that are just going to pollute our air and send thousands of people to the hospital every year."

Blackstone will invest $1.5 billion in the Mesquite natural gas plant, and estimates are it will create as many as 1,000 jobs. The Blackstone Group is also backing a solar power plant for Mesquite, which is expected to come on line in 2011, while the larger natural gas powered plant should be online by 2015.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV