July 26, 2007

Let Las Vegas Turn Out The Lights

Harry Reid has threatened to use his position in Congress to block the construction of four coal-fired electrical plants in Nevada. In a letter to three separate firms, Reid told them in no uncertain terms that his state doesn't need any of their dirty electricity -- in places like Las Vegas:

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada sent a letter this week to four companies telling them not to build planned coal-burning power plants in his state.

Reid's letter, dated Monday, was addressed to the corporate leaders of the Sierra Pacific Resources, private equity LS Power Group, Dynegy Inc. and Sithe Global Power LLC. A copy of the letter was obtained by Reuters on Thursday.

"I am writing to each of you regarding your company's proposal to build new coal-fired power plants in eastern Nevada and to express my strong opposition to those plants," Reid wrote.

The Democratic senator said he will use his influential post in Congress to keep coal plants out of Nevada.

"Because I believe that developing renewable energy in Nevada is far preferable to coal for the sake of our economy, public health and the environment, I will use every means at my disposal to prevent the construction of new coal-fired power plants in Nevada that do not capture and permanently store greenhouse gas emissions," Reid wrote.

More than most states, electricity is critical to Nevada's growth. The state has almost unbearably hot weather in its south most of the year, and any expansion relies on the modern marvel of air conditioning. Gaming, its biggest draw, relies even more heavily on reliable power generation.

Nevada's population increased 150% between 1980 and 2000, and it has not let up since. It has been the fastest-growing state most of the last 25 years. That kind of growth requires infrastructure, including electricity. So what does Harry have in mind for his home state? He says the state's needs can be met through "new renewable energy, energy efficiency and demand-side management."

That would be wonderful -- but shouldn't that be a decision for Nevada's state government? Why would Reid stick his nose where it doesn't belong? Well, the people who represent the coal-plant owners might give you an idea. Bracewell & Giuliani LLC handle the PR for Sithe Global Power ... and yes, that means Rudy Giuliani, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination.

Could this be another kind of power play altogether?


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Comments (26)

Posted by hunter | July 26, 2007 10:37 PM

Perhaps you forget that the Reid clan takes a proprietary interest in Nevada. We really have no idea just how much of the state the family directly, or through puppets, controls. Certainly the press takes absolutely no interest at all in Reid & son's Tammany-esque mixture of politics and crooked land deals. And of course the fellow dhimmiesin Congress, like Feinstein, are too busy with their own inside deals to be bothered with little things like intimidation of private industry by a pipsqueek thug like Reid.

Posted by Bennett | July 26, 2007 10:40 PM

I'd be more likely to conclude that this may have something to do with land. No one wants to live or work next to a coal plant so maybe the possible sites for these places will interfere with whatever development deal Harry might have a piece of. Or maybe Harry wants the power plants to buy their sites from him. I really don't think it's about politics, if it's Vegas it's about money, who's got it and what they plan to do with it.

Posted by amr | July 26, 2007 11:08 PM

3 years ago two vintage coal fired plants were shutdown in Nevada when the California PUC would not approve the costs involved in environmental upgrades required to maintain operation. That was a job I was asked to manage if it went through and I was involved in the planning. This power was primarily for California, which is why the CA PUC was involved. The up-grades would have addressed some of the issues Senator Reid is worried about. New plants and up-grades have extremely high design requirements so as to be as environmentally sound as practical. Gas turbines are better environmentally, but many require a new or upgrade of a pipeline which is another NIBBY issue. I’m not sure what renewable resources are presently available that can meet the immediate and near term needs of Nevada. His idea is a good sound bite, but his opposition to the new plants just may bite him when Nevada experiences what California did. Also the fear of CO2 (greenhouse gas) in the global warming scare is not proven science. While it might be politically expedient to hop on this train, it will not provide electricity for home and industry. He needs to read the latest study by Canadian geologist Dr. Timothy Patterson.

Posted by Rovin | July 26, 2007 11:56 PM

Bennet's spot on......Nevada's still a wasteland by volume (square acres), and it is all about the money.

In case no one noticed, there's enough shale coal reserves in the ground to supply energy to the most of the west coast for the next 500+ years. Burning coal plants leave an exhaust that is not appealing to the inviro's, but for and extra 150 million, they can make it almost 90% filtered per plant.

The shale coal reserves are America's best kept secret that needs to be exploited and promoted that could reduce our dependency on ME oil by 30 to 40%. with a small nunber of plants running at capacity. You run the numbers.

Reid knows this factor and will milk what he can out of the price. The fact that there is so much barren land outside of the metro's, it's by far one of the best known regions in the nation to run these factorys. New Mexico runs a close second.

Between the jobs and the production this would have been a boone to the desert west, but I fear the enviro's have already tied up in the courts what could have been.

Sithe Global Power's got a whole lot a "uphill" to climb that should be one of the few justified government programs that would reduce our dependency for so much of the foreign stuff.

What is sad is that Harry Reid has no vision beyond his own personal agenda. Otherwise he would be promoting this development. These two regions could be the "Pittsburg Steel Mills" of the seventies, but alas they may end up being called "Harrys Follies".

Posted by Del Dolemonte | July 27, 2007 12:09 AM

Give 'em hell, Harry!

Nevada IS mostly a wasteland (I once spent a week driving from Winnemucca to Elko on I-80, although in reality it actually took a couple of hours), except for casino towns like Vegas and Reno. But since most of the state is owned by the Feds, why not drill for oil?

We really SHOULD be exploring for oil out there in the Winnemucca Flats now, shouldn't we Harry?

Posted by Steffan | July 27, 2007 12:25 AM

I think hunter and Bennett have the right of it. Harry is Boss Tweed and Richard Daley in one incompetent package.... with maybe a little Huey Long added in as well.

The problem is that he's not nearly as smart or as competent as they were, and it hasn't occurred to him yet just how much he's in over his head.

Got any popcorn? I think the show is going to be fun to watch. :)

Posted by Rose | July 27, 2007 1:24 AM

If ever a place BEGGED for SOLAR POWER - it would HAVE to be Nevada.

Nevertheless, the idea of Nevada caught between a rock and ahard place, between ENERGY and Harry Reid, whom they willfully and DELIBERATELY elected to office....

Gee, I just can't work it up for poor Nevada.

My own area had to convince some citizens to vote Republican in spite of a large number of locals receiving late-night voter instructions in personal tutoring from local Dim officials in the weeks before Elections for many many decades - Texas had several Dim machines, and has a few left, in fact.

So I don't speak altogether unsympathetically - however - to each their own poison.

And I still cannot work it up for poor Nevada!

Posted by Adjoran | July 27, 2007 3:20 AM

I might be inclined to call Reid a moron, if he and his family and friends hadn't gotten so filthy rich off of his "public service."

He's a thief without doubt, and most likely a tool of the Vegas mob, but nobody's moron . . . at least as far as stealing anything in sight . . .

Posted by rob | July 27, 2007 5:26 AM

well, the good folks of Nevada elected this whimpering simp as their senator so it's hard for me to really care what kind of ploy Reid is up to. If the people of Nevada want adequate sources of electricity to enhance their state's growth, then at the first opportunity, they must throw this mental midget out of office.

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | July 27, 2007 5:42 AM

Reid actually said "energy efficiency and demand-side management?" About Nevada with its legendary casinos and biggest industry? Really?

Does he ever go through Vegas and the strip, 'cause I kinda think they're pretty big on wretched excess in the power-usage department. Maybe the day he made that comment, everyone turned out the lights when they went home. Perhaps Reid can convince everyone that swapping out an incandescent with a fluorescent in the broom closets would suffice. I'm certain that legislation must be coming forthwith. Surely that would be enough to justify any objections to the coal companies' silly plans.

Posted by joated | July 27, 2007 6:02 AM

So Dingy Harry doesn't want any more "dirty" coal fired electric plants in his state, heh? Perhaps all the electric companies (or the rest of the US) should simply sever the lines into the state and see just how self sufficient Nevada is. The same could be done for California and it's water demand.

We'd probably find there is 1) enough electricity left to power California and eliminate brownouts in that state although 2) not enough water in southeren California to support the people currently living there and they, in turn would have to move elsewhere. Hey, the Colorado River might actually be able to flow to the Gulf of California again if we stopped pumping so much of it's water over the mountains to southern Cal.

Posted by Jazz | July 27, 2007 6:21 AM

Setting aside, for the moment, some of the conspiracy theories and partisan anger on display in many of the previous comments, there still appears to be something significantly wrong here. It's my understanding (and corret me if I'm wrong here) that any new power generating facilities in the United States must meet certain federal guidelines and requirements for construction. Assuming those requirements are met, it then becomes a matter for the citizens of the state to decide. At least in New York, a ballot issue must be put in front of the voters to approve or deny permission.

If the citizens of Nevada are supporting the construction of the plants and they meet all federal construction requirements, what power is Reid claiming in interfering in this process? Yes, he gets a vote on it in his own state, of course, and he can use his considerable bully pulpit powers in Nevada to try to influence the rest of the residents, but in the end he has no actual power to stop it, does he?

Posted by Captain Ed | July 27, 2007 6:25 AM


Of course, you're correct on this point, but Reid himself seems to indicate in this letter that he has some powers over the process. My guess is that he will lean all over the EPA to block federal approval of the site plans.

Should he have this power? Absolutely not. Does he? I guess we'll soon see.

Posted by dave | July 27, 2007 8:12 AM

3,000 people die on 9/11, so the US therefore must bomb the crap out of brown people for the next 50 years. 24,000 people die every year from coal-fired power plants, 22,000 of those deaths being preventable, but that's perfectly acceptable, because its "critical for growth". I understand.


Posted by dave | July 27, 2007 8:34 AM

Here is a map that shows the impact of power plant pollution on the US. Many of the "red" states are red in more ways than one.


Posted by mrlynn | July 27, 2007 9:32 AM

Either Sen. Reid is an idiot, or he is working some kind of pressure scam. He probably figures he can hold up the power companies for some kind of payoff, while throwing a bone to the environmental-whacko-left.

Now if the companies said, "OK, you win; forget it," and pulled out, then the fatuous Senator could find himself dealing with certain tough guys who don't want to turn the lights out on the Strip. . .

/Mr Lynn

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | July 27, 2007 9:35 AM

RE: dave (July 27, 2007 8:12 AM)

So does that mean we should bomb the crap out of coal-blackened people for the next 400 years?


Actually, to some extent I agree with the pollution argument re coal-burning, and to the extent that "clean" designs and technology be stringently applied, I'm for it. Perhaps the bigger questions are a) should that vast wasteland be expanded to support the sea of humanity it wants to invite in view of all that must be shipped in to make it hospitable to us soft-shelled humans, and b) what step(s) is Reid taking to encourage application of other energy resources that could be tapped assuming that a) is desirable?

If his only position is that judicious use of current supply is adequate, then he's been smoking peyote with the Indians. Clearly it's in his best interest to get his state to expand - economically and by population; but, how exactly is he going to meet those needs/desires when alternatives offered are proactively stymied? Is he for regional solar farms? Wind farms? Nuclear? I'd suggest water-generated, but that redirection of a natural resource has been tapped out. What's his policy? As far I understand his policy, it's none of the above in his constituents' backyard. Why would coal-burning, even a cleaned derivative, be any different?

I guess Reid doesn't mind our Middle Eastern hegemony for oil products quite as much as he lets on.

Posted by dave | July 27, 2007 9:54 AM

I don’t know what Reid’s motivation’s are, but they certainly don’t have anything to do with environmental concerns or the health of human and non-human populations. Like all politicians, his motivations broadly fall into either the power or money category. I do know what is in my best interest (and in the best interest of all humans and non-humans alike, even though most humans don’t know it). That is to oppose all aspects of “civilization”, including coal-burning power plants. Civilization needs to be stopped before the planet is completely trashed.

You can check on the map on page 15 of this report to see how close you are to the nearest coal power plant. Do you live in a black area?


Posted by LarryD | July 27, 2007 10:14 AM

Dave: 'I do know what is in my best interest ... That is to oppose all aspects of “civilization”,...'

Thanks for telling us where you stand, true believer.

Posted by bman | July 27, 2007 10:27 AM

Gov. Sebelius and Eastern Ks. EPA advocates stopped the construction of 4 coal fired plants out here in western Kansas.

These plants burn Canyon City anthracite, some of the least polluting coal in the world, offer good jobs in rural Ks., and help the USA gain on the consumption of oil.

Posted by Raoul | July 27, 2007 10:38 AM

Harry and the rest of Nevada's political "leaders" (of both parties) are just plain dumb. Instead of spending $millions of taxpayers dollars trying to block Yucca Mountain they could cut a deal with the Feds to build a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant there, bringing in $billions and thousands of jobs. They should also welcome Nuclear Power plant construction. The Feds own 85% of Nevada, so building Nuclear power plants has no NIMBY problems.

But Harry and the rest are in the back pockets of the Gambling and Development interests. And 85% of the registered voter live in one county: Clark - Las Vegas, and all they know is gambling and development. Just plain dumb.

Posted by oldguy | July 27, 2007 12:48 PM

I surprised Reid is willing to live in a town where they burn paper to keep the lights on--his town is Washington and the fuel they burn is our money.

Posted by MarkW | July 27, 2007 2:22 PM

you have to remember the source of dave's statistics, and take them with a huge grain of salt, or would that be, lump of coal.

Posted by Neo | July 27, 2007 4:12 PM

The most "green hose" frendily energy is nuclear.

Reid just recently tried to block the usage of "state water" for drilling test wells to proven the viablility of a permanent nuclear waste repository in Nevada.

The state allowed the usage of his objections.

Posted by exDemo | July 27, 2007 4:19 PM

All politics are local said the Sage.

Y'all forget that Mr. Reid got his start in politics by jumping in front to the NIMBYs and "leading" them in their opposition to the Yucca mountain Nuclear Waste Repository mine, overlooking Death Valley.

These were the voters who elected this corrupt dweeb, and who have allowed him to swindle millions in sweetheart land deals since gaining office.

He is just "staying bought" and being politically reliable to them. And aslo protecting hsi ability to amss more millions for his personal fotune. Nothing more, nothing less.

He knows that it's not his job, someone else will find the power for Nevadans, they always have in the past. In the final analysis, he can make a fuss about the equitable sharing of the electrical output of the Colorado River damns, including the Hoover damn on the outskirts of Las Vegas.

Screw California, let them build their own power plants, rather than ship Nevada electricity to the California coastal cities, hundreds of miles away.

Ditto for California water, too. It is intrinsically stupid to take water from the middle of the country where there is not enough, as is, and pump it to Los Angeles which sits on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Let the Californian enviro-wackos, desalinate or die of thirst; or roast to death in tthe heat without electricity for their Air Conditioning.

At present California has not a single coal based power plant remaining in operation.

Mr. Reid may be an cynical idiot, but he knows who the NIMBYs are who elected him.

Posted by nevadaresident | July 27, 2007 4:26 PM

Keep in mind that Reid is first a Democrat. He is a politician. As far as I can tell by reading local papers, no one in the state really agrees with him on this and I am waiting for an answer from Sen. Ensign on his position. The state PUC has already issued some permits. The rural counties, where these plants will be located, need the jobs and economic boost. These new plants will allow the state to take some older, less efficient plants offline - which is the strongest argument for me. We already have coal plants and these will replace some of them.

The power companies are factoring in longterm renewable potential energy sources. The companies are investing in research and development of new power sources but that is for the future. In the meantime it would be good to have newer, cleaner, more efficient plants pumping out electricity.

From what I can see, more and more Nevadans are becoming fed up with Reid. He will keep being re-elected though because of the lower income hotel workers in Las Vegas who outnumber the rest of the fairly conservative state.