Utah Group Opposes Nevada Coal-Fired Power Plants

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons soon will be hearing from members of the Utah Clean Air Alliance who fear that if three coal-fired power plants are built in eastern Nevada, Utah residents already living in pollution-plagued areas will be the ones who suffer.

The coalition, which has about 20 groups, contends pollution from the plants in rural Nevada would likely be blown into Utah by prevailing winds, possibly lingering for days over cities in mountainous valleys.

While more than 90 percent of Utah's power needs are met by coal, the state Division of Air Quality says most of the state's air problems are caused by automobile exhaust.

Along the Wasatch Front, where roughly 1.6 million people live, poor air quality can force those with respiratory health problems and some other chronic conditions to limit exercise outdoors or stay inside.

Last winter, there were 28 "red" air quality days, where Salt Lake and Davis county residents were told to limit their driving and not use wood-burning stoves or fireplaces.

The alliance contends Nevada should be a good neighbor and look to alternative forms of energy for its power needs.

On Wednesday, Dana Clark, co-founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air, said the alliance will soon be sending Gibbons, a Republican, a letter stating the coalition's opposition to using coal as an energy source.

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment is also a member of the clean air alliance.

"We're hoping that Governor Gibbons can be persuaded by enlightened leadership and citizens around the region that pulverized coal is not the right technology for the future. It's too polluting," Clark said.

The power plants would be built in eastern Nevada near the Utah border.

In January, Nevada will begin holding public hearings on the proposed power plants, and Clark is considering chartering a bus so Utah residents can attend.

One plant would be built about 70 miles west of the Great Basin National Park near Ely, Nev., where Sierra Pacific Resources is planning a 1,500 megawatt plant.

LS Power Group also plans a 1,600-megawatt project nearby.

Ely is about 250 miles west of Salt Lake City.

A third coal-fired plant, a 750-megawatt project planned by Sithe Global Power, is planned farther south near Mesquite, Nev., about 40 miles southwest of St. George, Utah.

On Monday, about 100 southern Utah residents gathered in a St. George park in southwestern Utah to protest the coal plants.

Nevada officials have said the proposed coal plants will burn cleaner than older plants and are crucial for economic development.

"Ensuring we are able to meet our energy demands is too important an issue to not have the proper debate and transparency," U.S. Rep Jon Porter, R-Nev., said Monday.

"Nevada will need a diversified energy portfolio if it is able to compete in the 21st century and it is premature to take any option off the