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Scrapbook: Double-Barreled Coal Victory in the Silver State

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March 11, 2009

Double-Barreled Coal Victory in the Silver State

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The Sierra Club and its clean energy allies in Nevada won twin victories when two proposed coal plants in the state were scrapped in the last month.

On February 9, a three-year Sierra Club campaign concluded successfully when NV Energy called off plans to construct the Ely Energy Center in eastern Nevada "due to increasing environmental and economic uncertainties." Then on March 5, LS Power withdrew its request for a permit from the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to build the White Pine Energy Station, also near Ely.

The Club's dynamic duo in the Nevada coal wars was Lydia Ball, above left, who led the statewide fight for three years from the Club's Las Vegas office, and Emily Rhodenbaugh, above right, who has spearheaded operations in the Club's Reno office since April 2008.

The Nevada Sierra Club deployed 1,500 individual activists over the last three years to attend BLM environmental impact statement hearings and air permit hearings with the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection and the federal EPA.

"In September 2008 we turned out 450 people in Las Vegas," Ball says, "the largest turnout ever for an environmental event there."

More than 300 clean energy activists attended the last round of BLM public hearings100 each in Las Vegas and Reno, and 50 each in Ely and Elko.

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Above and below, volunteers prepare to attend the Reno hearing.

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Ball and Rhodenbaugh are quick to credit key contributions from volunteers Terry Murasco, Jane Feldman, Jeff Hardcastle, and David VonSeggern.

"We've now stopped two of the three coal plants proposed in Nevada," says Barbara Boyle, the Sierra Club's senior representative for the region. "A third coal plant, the Toquop Plant, has been proposed to be built near Mesquite by Sithe Global, which has recently vowed it is moving forward. That will be the focus of our Stop the Coal Rush efforts in the near future."

Rhodenbaugh says the recession played a major role in sidelining the NV Energy and LS Power projects, but she stresses that the price of coal is increasing dramatically as the market for renewable energy is on the upswing.

"State legislators are looking at stimulus money that's going to come into the state to support clean, renewable jobs," she told the Public News Service. "It's not going to come in to support any coal plants. With that in mind, we've got to focus and get trained, and put Nevadans to work."

Speaking of which, the week after LS Power withdrew its permit request, Lydia Ball started a new position as Nevada Energy Outreach representative for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

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