I-TEAM: Environmentalists Use Economics, Not - 8 News NOW

I-TEAM: Environmentalists Use Economics, Not Trees To Kill Coal

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Members of the Moapa Paiute Tribe protest the Reid Gardner coal plant in May. Members of the Moapa Paiute Tribe protest the Reid Gardner coal plant in May.

LAS VEGAS -- Environmentalists are using the high cost of coal power production to convince NV Energy ratepayers that the so-called "dirty" energy should go.

The environmental group Sierra Club told the Nevada Public Utilities Commission that coal is not only a heavy polluter, but that by closing down coal plants 10 years ahead of schedule, ratepayers would save money.

"Our analysis indicates a 2013 retirement date would save in the range of $60 million to ratepayers," said Sierra Club spokesman Tim Hay, a former Public Utility Commissioner. "It's mainly avoiding saddling ratepayers with unnecessary expenses to keep an old plant running."

NV Energy disagrees, and said that coal plants are keeping power bills lower than they would be otherwise.

NV Energy spokesman Mark Severts said the company has already paid for equipment that lowers exhaust from the coal plant.

He said that an average home needs one kilowatt hour to run air conditioning for an hour. The going price of coal and natural gas is three cents per kilowatt hour, he said.

Wind, geothermal and solar power is more expensive, he said, going for 7 cents, 8 cents and 12 cents per kilowatt hour, respectively.

Severts said the company's new natural gas plant runs at near capacity during the summer months, so the neighboring coal plant would have to fire up to pick up the load.

Shut it off, and Nevada could have to buy power from neighboring states at a premium, Severts said.

The use of coal as a source of energy has also been attacked by the Moapa Paiute Tribe, whose members say that the Reid Gardner coal power plant is the source of their many health problems, including asthma, emphysema and heart disease. They have asked the commission to shut down the power plant, just north of Las Vegas.

NV Energy has stated in the past that the tribe is working with the Sierra Club to shut down coal power production.

The commission is expected to schedule a hearing on whether to give the coal plant an early retirement.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is also expected to make a decision on pollution control at Moapa next month.

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