ELKO — One major coal-fired power plant near Ely has been delayed but a similar, nearby project is proceeding.
Nevada Public Utilities Commission has scheduled a consumer session next month in Ely on LS Power’s proposal to build a coal-fired power plant in White Pine County, to be followed by a Nevada Division of Environmental Protection hearing on potential greenhouse gas emissions.
“We’re moving full speed ahead with the project,” LS Power official Mark Milburn said regarding the company’s plans for the nearly 1,600-megawatt White Pine Energy Station north of Ely. “We’re at the final steps.”
The utilities commission session is slated for noon March 8 at the Bristlecone Convention Center. The commission will hear comment on the power plant at the Ely session and also at a public comment session from 9 a.m. to noon March 10 in Carson City.
The public comment session in Carson City at the commission’s offices will be followed at 1 p.m. by a hearing on the proposed power plant. The hearing may continue through March 13, according to the commission notice.
The NDEP hearing at
6 p.m. March 25 at the Bristlecone Convention Center is another one of the steps remaining on the road to permitting the power project, which has already received U.S. Bureau of Land Management approval.
“The BLM decision was a major milestone,” said Milburn, adding that the air quality permit and utilities commission approval are the next major steps.
The NDEP hearing will be on a recent U.S. Environmental Appeals Board decision that determined there are no current federal or state clean air standards or regulations governing greenhouse gas emissions for power plants, according to NDEP spokesman Vinson Guthreau.
He said the NDEP’s Bureau of Air Pollution Control is taking public comment strictly on the appeals board decision that backs up what NDEP has been saying.
“This hearing will be specifically on CO2 emissions,” Guthreau said. “Our position on CO2 hasn’t changed,” he said.
The appeals board decision was over a Sierra Club appeal of a Utah project, Guthreau said.
Milburn said NDEP “wants to make sure the public has a chance to weigh in on CO2 emissions,” but he was confident NDEP would issue an air quality permit for the LS Power project.
NDEP has already taken comment on the proposed White Pine Energy Station, but Guthreau said the public comment at the March hearing “may or may not” affect the decision on the air quality permit.
“It’s the whole climate change debate,” he said.
“We understand this is an ever-evolving issue,” said Michael Elges, chief of the Bureau of Air Pollution Control. “LS Power has elected to move forward with their project. In response to that action, NDEP prepared an agency determination pursuant to greenhouse gases.”
LS Power is planning a more than $3 billion power plant 34 miles north of Ely similar in size to a coal-fired power plant that NV Energy planned to build in White Pine County but recently postponed.
NV Energy announced earlier this month the utility would delay the $5 billion Ely Energy Center planned 18 miles north of Ely and focus on obtaining approval for a 250-mile transmission line that would connect northern and southern Nevada.
The BLM issued a draft EIS on the NV Energy project before the power company’s decision to postpone due to costs and environmental pressures. The agency held public meetings on the study earlier this month, including one in Elko.
The agency approved LS Power’s plans for the White Pine Energy Station in December 2008 and issued rights-of-way grants for the power plant in January.
Conservationists and clean-energy organizations filed an appeal last month, however, with the U.S. Department of Interior’s Board of Land Appeals over BLM’s approval of the LS Power project.
The Center for Biological Diversity included in the appeal claim that “operation of the facility would release an estimated 12.88 million tons of CO2, the predominant greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, into the air each year.”
Elges is accepting public comments on the NDEP decision on greenhouse gases. They may be sent to Michael Elges, chief, Bureau of Air Pollution Control, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, 901 S. Stewart St., Suite 4001, Carson City, NV 89701-5249.