New Coal Power Plant Faces Major Delay - 8 News NOW

Jonathan Humbert, Reporter

New Coal Power Plant Faces Major Delay

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Steve Rypka, a green energy consultant Steve Rypka, a green energy consultant
Michael Yackira, with Nevada Power, says the BLM forced his hand. Michael Yackira, with Nevada Power, says the BLM forced his hand.

A major delay in power plant construction could end up helping the environment, but potentially hurting you in the pocketbook. Nevada Power and the Bureau of Land Management are at odds about when construction could begin.

This major change could all be because of a communications breakdown.

The Bureau of Land Management told Eyewitness News late Thursday afternoon, the move caught them by surprise. The BLM had originally set a 2009 deadline for environmental studies to be finished. Nothing has changed.

Nevada Power says that study was supposed to be done this coming summer. So in response to the confusion, the company is shifting gears to build a new gas power plant. And that means some pluses -- and minuses.

There is an unexpected change for power use in Nevada.

"No, it's not what our plan was, nor is it what we hope to have in the long run," said Michael Yackira. 

Yackira, with Nevada Power, says the BLM forced his hand. Demand for power is as high as ever, and without approval for a new coal plant in Ely, the company must find a way to produce power.

The new way will be a gas power plan rather than a coal powered plant. And there are concerns connected to gas powered plants.

"We don't want to invest in something that looks inexpensive up front and then comes with cascading and increasing costs down the road," said Steve Rypka, a green energy consultant. He says gas may be a better form of energy.

"It's a much cleaner fuel," he said. But it's also a much more expensive fuel -- leaving Nevada open to the whim of the volatile energy market. But will consumer power rates go up?

"It all depends on what happens with the price of natural gas," said Yackira.

Yackira says a locally owned and operated gas plant will hopefully reduce the amount of future increases.

Rypka says the delay in construction of the coal plant could actually give Nevada Power time to increase solar power generation -- a cleaner, renewable form of energy.

"If this buys us some time to have further discussion and look at that and have a clearer picture then I think it's a good thing," said Rypka.

And as the winter drags on, the hot weather isn't too far off -- making time anything but renewable.

"The most important thing we have to do is keep the lights on. That is our responsibility, that's our legal obligation," said Yackira.

There are still serious questions about how this small change in date can cause a multi-million dollar shift in power -- all while rising rates are hanging in the balance. The BLM field office told Eyewitness News Thursday afternoon that Nevada Power agreed to a revised timeline for 2009 this past July. The officer there said he was surprised by Nevada Power's new plan for the gas plant.

Eyewitness News spoke to Michael Yackira again Thursday afternoon. He said it isn't that the BLM isn't acting fast enough. He says nothing was ever put into writing about the 2009 deadline. Two groups on different sides of the table.

Email your comments to Reporter Jonathan Humbert.

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