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“Dirty” Coal-Fired Power: 12 More Years in Nevada?

October 3, 2011

RENO, Nev. - The Environmental Integrity Project dubbed it the nation's dirtiest power plant in 2007, and today the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will hear from Nevadans about whether the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant should get a new lease on life through 2023. According to Vinny Spotleson, western regional coal organizer for the Sierra Club, keeping the nation's old plants - like Reid Gardner - running will cost ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars for new pollution controls. And when the cost of out-of-state coal and the price of hazardous waste control are tacked on, it adds up to a bad deal for Nevada's environment and economy, he says.

"We're talking about hundreds of millions, if not over a billion dollars, that we could spend on this coal plant over the next 12 years. Or we could spend that instead on clean energy here in Nevada and create the jobs of the future."

According to NV Energy, coal costs consumers less, and the company warns that new, more expensive, natural gas plants would be needed if older coal plants go offline. Spotleson disagrees. He says enough geothermal energy is coming online in Nevada to replace most of what would be lost in phasing out Reid Gardner.

The Sierra Club and the Moapa Band of Paiutes are taking legal action in the PUC case. Sierra Club Toiyabe Chapter volunteer Marge Sill would like to see the coal facility phased out as soon as possible, because it is causing health problems for the tribe and other neighbors of the plant.

"We're concerned particularly about asthma, which is very much on the increase, that is affecting the children at the Moapa Piute Reservation - and we have to care about all children."

Spotleson says keeping old coal plants will not get NV Energy closer to its pledge that 25 percent of its energy will come from renewable sources by 2025. He says the company has been using old, out-of-state hydroelectric dams to help meet that standard, when it could be investing in solar and geothermal in Nevada.

"One of the dams that NV Energy was using is from the 1800s. We need real, clean energy to be built, not just resources to be moved around."

Today's hearing starts at 1:30 p.m. at the Washoe County Commission chambers; Wednesday's hearing begins at 1:30 p.m. at the Public Utilities Commission office, Las Vegas.

The report about the nation's dirtiest power plants is available at http://bit.ly/ngXXkr. More information about the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit group created by former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enforcement attorneys, is available at www.environmentalintegrity.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV