Coral delays Ely coal project

A coal-fired power project planned near Mesquite moved a step forward with the issuance of a proposed air quality permit, state officials confirmed Thursday.

But a coal power project near Ely may have hit a snag because of concerns about coral in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Nevada Division of Environmental Quality has been sending notices of the draft air permit for the Toquop Energy Project, which is planned to be built 14 miles northwest of Mesquite.

At the same time, LS Power Group continues to wait for possible final approval of a draft air permit for its proposed White Pine Energy Station near Ely. The permit is being delayed while the Environmental Protection Agency reviews concerns that the LS Power project could threaten endangered species, Dante Pistone, spokesman for the state environmental agency, said.

“It involves a question about the impact (of additional carbon dioxide) on coral in the Gulf of Mexico,” Pistone said.

EPA officials familiar with the LS Power project were not available for comment Thursday, a spokeswoman said.

Pistone said the LS Power project was “on hold,” but later called to clarify: “More appropriately, it should be that they are just waiting for the EPA approval to be completed.”

Eric Crawford, director of project development for LS Power, said an environmental group raised issues about Gulf of Mexico coral but said the EPA review was “part of the normal permitting process.”

Toquop project developer Sithe Global Power is pleased the draft air permit was released, spokesman Frank Maisano said.

Toquop will be built according to the strictest environmental standards yet, he said.

“Toquop can be an important part of keeping the lights on in Nevada,” Maisano said. It should also help reduce the state’s reliance on volatility priced natural gas, he added.

Also, he said, the $1.3 billion project would increase the tax base in Lincoln County by 15 times and would pay $10 million in annual taxes.

Most Mesquite residents, however, oppose the project, said Michele Burkett, co-manager of the Web site Stop Toquop.org.

“I have yet to find someone who is in support of it,” Burkett said. The project is 12 miles from downtown Mesquite, she said, and would be closer to residential developments. She prefers renewable power, such as the solar power facilities installed at Nellis Air Force Base.

Attempts to reach Mesquite council members for comment failed.

Residents in St. George, Utah, who are downwind from the project, also object to the project, Burkett said.

In a separate development, the Nevada environmental division extended the deadline for comments on the $3.8 billion Ely Energy Center proposed by Sierra Pacific Resources near Ely. The state will entertain public comments on the Sierra Pacific project at a Jan. 9 meeting in Ely.

Contact reporter John G. Edwards at jedwards@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0420.

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