Washoe County commissioners have approved a special-use permit for an air-monitoring station near Gerlach, the first step in what could be the biggest coal-fired power plant in Nevada.
Commissioners Dave Humke, Bonnie Weber and Jim Galloway, all Republicans, voted for the permit Tuesday, saying they could make the findings that a 164-foot tower to monitor air quality and wind would not be a detriment to the Gerlach area.
"As a trained scientist, I am not going to deny their ability to get their information," said Galloway, who previously was a rocket scientist.
The air tests would be for a 1,450-megawatt power plant planned by Sempra Energy of San Diego that would burn enough pulverized coal to provide electricity for at least 1.45 million households.
The tower in Squaw Creek Valley, about 10 miles northeast of Gerlach, would be dismantled after two years.
Democrats Jim Shaw and Pete Sferrazza opposed the tower. Shaw said he was swayed by testimony from Reno environmentalist Susan Lynn, who said the tower is not compatible with the rural area and would be a detriment.
Sferrazza sided with many of the 60 residents who attended the hearing and said the process was flawed.
Deputy District Attorney John Rhodes advised the commissioners, just as the planning commission had been told, to consider only the impacts created by the air-monitoring station.
No permit or application for the planned power plant was before the board.