State official seeks to halt power plant

State consumer advocate Eric Witkoski on Wednesday filed a petition asking regulators to revisit their decision to approve construction of the 500-megawatt, gas-fired Harry Allen Combined Cycle power plant.

NV Energy, formerly known as Nevada Power Co., won regulatory approval Oct. 1 even though the project will cost customers $235 million more than another option, he said.

Witkoski, chief of the attorney general’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, also said NV Energy started building the plant before state regulators approved it.

The regulatory filing focuses on the Public Utilities Commission decision to allow NV Energy to build the Harry Allen power plant north of Las Vegas for $780 million, including financing costs during construction.

LS Power, an independent power company based in New Jersey, offered to sell NV Energy a similar power plant for $545 million, the bureau said. Yet the commission voted 3-0 to allow the utility to build the Harry Allen plant.

NV Energy already started building the Harry Allen plant late last year without getting commission approval to recover the plant costs through rates, the document explained. The project was under construction for five months before the utility sought commission approval.

NV Energy may argue that it needed to start construction so that it could meet Clark County’s deadline and not lose an air permit needed for the project, the bureau said.

NV Energy spokesman Adam Grant declined comment, saying the company had not had time to review the petition filed by the attorney general’s bureau late Wednesday.

The commission order states that no participant in the case recommended denying the request to build the Harry Allen generation plant. But the petition, filed by deputy attorney general Paul Stuhff, contends written testimony from the commission staff opposed the Harry Allen project.

After learning that LS Power offered to sell its gas-fired Apex Generating Station to NV Energy for less than the cost of the Harry Allen project, the staff amended its testimony, according to the bureau.

Staff analyst John Davis concluded that buying the LS Power plant appears to be “considerably more advantageous” than building the new plant. Davis called the LS Power plant the least cost option.

The filing says that Davis recommended approval of the Harry Allen project only if NV Energy was unable to reach a “reasonable firm agreement” with LS Power by Oct. 4 and unable to buy power from the LS Power plant if federal authorization was denied for the power plant sale.

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

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