Coal plant switches to gas

Photo by David Robert

An announcement by the Blackstone Group LP that a proposed coal plant in Southern Nevada will be powered by natural gas instead of coal is winning praise from environmental groups and affected residents.

The Toquop Generating Station had been put on an indefinite hold, in part because of opposition from U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, until coal sequestration technology was developed. It was one of three plants Reid vowed to stop, enraging some rural Nevada municipal officials. At the time, Reid promised to replace the lost facilities with other economic development, which drew skepticism. But Blackstone and its subsidiary Sithe Global credited Reid with a role in achieving the new plan, which calls for a 700-megawatt plant north of Mesquite and includes a solar panel aspect that will generate another 100 megawatts of power. Construction will cost $1.4 billion and create hundreds of jobs.

Mayors in Nevada and Utah communities that are downwind of the site and were critical of the coal plant proposal praised the new plan. Rallies against the coal plant had been held in St. George, Utah. Mesquite Mayor Susan Holecheck, who opposed the coal plant, called the plan a “wonderful compromise.”

The Sierra Club, Citizens for Dixie’s Future (a Utah Group) and Western Resource Advocates all praised the switch from coal, which drew wide attention, including coverage on business sites and a story in the New York Times.