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April 19, 2014

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NV Energy officially delays Ely coal plant

NV Energy is abandoning its coal-fired power plant in Ely — at least for now, the company announced Feb. 9.

The state’s main electric utility had planned to have the plant complete by 2016. It was a prominent part of the company’s three-tiered strategy to make the state energy independent.

But environmental, legal and political roadblocks have made developing a coal plant unattractive.

NV Energy says it will only pursue its proposed coal plant once carbon capture technology, which would decrease air pollution from such plants, is developed.

That could take at least a decade.

The company has long discussed the possibility of canceling the coal project if it looked like Congress was going to pass anti-global warming legislation that would tax a coal plant’s carbon emissions.

It is widely recognized by the global scientific community that carbon emissions are the major contributing factor to global warming as well as myriad other environmental problems such as acidification of the ocean.

Coal plants also emit other air pollutants that can cause health problems.

Both presidential candidates supported carbon-cap legislation, and President Barack Obama has made cleaning the nation’s energy supply a major theme in his first month in office.

Public support for coal-fired power plants has waned in the past three years as less polluting alternatives have come down in cost.

The federal government would like to see massive growth in electricity produced from renewable energy.

Democrats are expected to introduce legislation this year that would set goals to increase renewable energy production in the U.S. by as much as 25 percent.

Many states, including Nevada, already have such renewable energy standards in place.

Dozens of proposed coal-fired power plants across the country have been canceled in the past few years. NV Energy was one of the last coal-plant holdouts in the western United States.

The remaining potential coal-plant developers have faced serious legal and political setbacks causing some energy developers to pull out of fossil fuel power plant production altogether.

LS Power’s White Pine Energy Center, another of the proposed coal-fired power plants in Ely, recently hit a roadblock when a consortium of health, conservation and environmental groups appealed a BLM decision to approve a site for a 1,600-megawatt coal plant.

And LS Power’s partner in the project, Dynegy, pulled out of all coal-plant projects including the White Pine Energy Center in January, causing it further difficulties.

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