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Reid asks Gibbons to reconsider plans for coal-fired power plants

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday urged Gov. Jim Gibbons to reconsider plans for three coal-fired power plants in the wake of a recent federal regulatory decision.

In a letter to the Republican governor, Reid , D-Nev., cited a Nov. 13 decision that directs the Environmental Protection Agency to explain why it didn’t consider requiring reduction of carbon dioxide from a coal-fired power project in Utah. In addition, the Environmental Appeals Board recommended EPA adopt a national policy for dealing with carbon dioxide, which scientists say leads to global warming.

Because of the board’s ruling, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection "cannot move forward with any legal certainty" in approving air permits for three coal power projects in Nevada, Reid said. Approving final air permits, Reid said, would put "billions of dollars of Nevadans’ investments (in coal projects) in great jeopardy."

Mendy Elliott, deputy chief of staff for the governor, said she and other officials in the governor’s office have been meeting with legislators and haven’t seen Reid’s letter.

Sanjay Narayan, senior staff attorney for the Sierra Club, has said the board ruling makes it risky for the Nevada division to grant final air permits until the EPA adopts a policy on carbon dioxide emissions.

The developers of the three coal-fired power projects in Nevada have received draft permits, but the state agency has not made a decision on a final air permit for any of them. They are the Ely Energy Center that NV Energy proposes to build near Ely, the White Pine Energy Station that LS Power proposes to construct in the same area and the Toquop Energy Project that Sithe Global Power wants to build outside of Mesquite.

The EPA case stems from plans by the Deseret Electric Cooperative to expand a power plant near Bonanza, Utah.

While that case was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts vs. EPA that carbon dioxide is an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act of 1977.

The EPA approved a final air permit for the Bonanza coal project, but the Sierra Club appealed to the Environmental Appeals Board.

The environmental board directed the EPA to reopen the Bonanza case and reconsider carbon dioxide restrictions. If EPA determined no carbon dioxide reduction was needed at the Utah plant, EPA should explain why, the board said.

The decision "makes it overwhelmingly clear that the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection cannot move forward with legal certainty in granting final air quality to any of the proposed coal-fired power plants currently being considered in Nevada unless such permits consider the extremely high greenhouse gas emissions from those plants," Reid said in the letter.

Reid asked Gibbons to "join with me in putting Nevada quickly on a cleaner plat toward a renewable energy and efficiency driven economy and safer future."

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

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