Sithe Global goes green in Nevada

The developer of Desert Rock has done an about-face on one of its proposed power plants. After running into public and governmental resistance on its plans for the coal-fired Toquop Power Plant, Sithe Global went back to the drawing board and came back with a much cleaner natural gas-fueled facility.

The Bureau of Land Management originally approved a 1,100-megawatt natural gas plant for the Mesquite, Nev., site back in 2003. But based on volatility in natural gas prices, Sithe Global opted to push for a 750-megawatt coal-fired power plant instead. However, the company did not anticipate volatility on the public relations front. After two years of resistance and the mounting probability of carbon taxes, Sithe has gone back to gas, according to a report in the Las Vegas Sun. 

“We’re delighted with the prospect of the jobs this plant will create,” Mesquite Mayor Susan Holecheck told the paper. “And it’s in keeping with a desire for cleaner energy.”

All three of Sithe Global’s planned power plants have faced strong opposition. A plant pitched for Pennsylvania was rejected after a government-backed loan guarantee fell through. Closer to home, the Desert Rock Power Plant – a 1,500 megawatt proposal for Navajo land southwest of Farmington – hit a major roadblock last September. At that time, the Environmental Protection Agency revoked the controversial power plant’s permit and sent it back to square one of the review process. Then in December, the Department of Energy denied an application from Sithe for $451 million in stimulus funding, which would have gone to adding a carbon-capture component to the proposed plant. Whether a cleaner future could be in store for the Desert Rock proposal remains unknown, however. Sithe Global officials opted not to returnDurango Telegraph phone calls this week.

Meanwhile, energy is continuing to swing away from coal and closer to cleaner and renewable options. The Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act, HB 1365, was introduced into the Colorado Legislature this week. Sponsored by Rep. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and Sen. Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus, the bill seeks to replace Xcel Energy Inc.’s use of coal with natural gas and other sources. The goal is to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions in Colorado by 70 to 80 percent by the end of 2017.

In addition, a study released last week indicates that coal-fired power is not only dirty, it is less profitable than clean energy alternatives. The report, “Coal Plants in Transition: An Economic Case Study,” was developed by Natural Capitalism Solutions, a Colorado nonprofit specializing in sustainable business strategies.

Using the 35-year-old Navajo Generating Station in Page, Ariz., as a case study, the analysis examines the costs and benefits of the plant’s future. As with many aging power plants, Navajo is due for upgrades to comply with pollution and air quality regulations. The authors calculated that the Navajo could reliably and profitably be replaced with a much cleaner natural gas plant at a major cost savings – an estimated $157.6 million annually.

“It’s profitable for utilities to be investing in cleaner energy,” said Hunter Lovins, the founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions. “Replacing sunset technologies with more of the same – repeating the mistakes of the past – may feel more comfortable, but it makes no economic sense. Clean energy is ... more profitable than dirty power for utilities and better for communities and consumers.”


Phish to swim back into the region

Twenty-two years after Phish first played Telluride, the band is planning a two-night run for this summer. The recently reunited jam band is set to play Telluride Town Park on Aug. 9 - 10, and upwards of 9,000 people are expected for each of the two shows.  

While town officials have endorsed the two shows, they are not exactly welcoming the band’s Phans with open arms. Town Marshal Jim Kolar said that he expects to need 25 to 30 extra officers to deal with public urination, drug overdoses and other infractions, according to a report in theTelluride Daily Planet. In addition, the Phish shows are set for the Monday and Tuesday directly following Telluride Jazz Festival weekend. Festival director Paul Machado expressed concerns that the concerts could crowd his festival and max out Telluride’s bed base. However, the Jazz Festival agreed to come to the table, and even booked an act for Sunday that it hopes will have crossover appeal, the Greyboy All-Stars.

The underlying fact is that the Phish shows promise to pump some serious money into Telluride’s ailing economy. Tourism officials estimate $500,000 in lodging receipts for the two nights, with the 3,400 pillows within town limits sure to be sold out.

Telluriders are also certain to get a front row seat. In an attempt to make sure locals get to see the show without binoculars, 1,500 tickets will be allocated for townspeople. Craig Ferguson, organizer of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, worked with Phish’s promoter, AEG Live, to bring the band back to Southwest Colorado.

The once fledgling band first played Telluride in a humble show at the Elk’s Club way back in 1988. At that time, band members crashed on the floor of a local home, according to thePlanet.  


‘Active transportation’ bill introduced

Cyclists and pedestrians could be in for good news in coming months. U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., has introduced the Active Community Transportation Act in Washington, D.C. The national legislation aims to make active transportation safer, easier and more accessible by creating a competitive grant program to help communities build networks of bicycling and walking infrastructure.

“The ACT transportation grants will make it easier for people to get out of their vehicles and onto sidewalks or bikes, boosting heart rates and community vitality,” said Blumenauer.

Current funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure supports only 1 project at a time. H.R. 4722 would allow communities to access multi-year grants to build complete bicycle and pedestrian facilities that connect homes to jobs, schools, recreation and shops.

 “Bicycling and walking have real potential to replace short car trips in communities across the country, and increasing active transportation has got to be good for individuals, communities and the nation,” said Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. “This visionary bill will help us realize that potential, economically, efficiently and effectively, and we thank Congressman Blumenauer and his colleagues for their leadership in bringing it forward.”

– Will Sands




In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows