S.W. coal-fired plants raise cloud of dismay

S.W. coal-fired plants raise cloud of dismay

Greenhouse-gas emissions from 14 coal-fired power plants planned for the Southwest could undercut action to curb global warming, a new study says.

The study, by Environmental Defense and Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates, estimates that the plants will release each year a total of more than 70 million tons of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas linked to global warming.

If that happens, the Southwest can expect to feel climate-change effects, including increased flooding, wildfires and infectious-disease outbreaks, the study concludes.

“As much as any region in the country, the Southwest will feel the impact of global warming,” said John Nielsen, energy program director for Western Resource Advocates.

The study looks at the climate impacts in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Arizona.

Utility officials say that the new plants will be built with modern pollution controls eclipsing the technology in older facilities.

Jim Van Someren, a spokesman for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc. – which serves Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and New Mexico – said the report makes assumptions about the company’s long-term plans and technology investments.

“We will comply with all state and federal regulations, but to say anything beyond that would be speculative,” Van Someren said.

The report calls on states to invest more in renewable energy and support plans that aggressively combat global warming. The report’s authors cite California’s 2002 commitment to control auto carbon-dioxide emissions.

“Our elected leaders have already shown strong leadership on global warming and clean-energy issues,” said Jana Milford, a scientist with Environmental Defense. “These new plants, which are based on outdated technology, threaten to undo much of the hard work,” she said.

The report’s authors say the new coal-fired power plants are touted as “green” but exploit the fact that carbon-dioxide controls aren’t required by federal regulations.

They cite Sithe Global Power Co.’s plans to operate a 1,500-megawatt coal-fired power plant near Farmington, N.M. The proposed plant will discharge 10.5 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

A Sithe Global spokesman said the study fails to note the demand for electricity in the region and the economic benefits to the Navajo Nation, which is supporting the project.

“There is a tremendous need for generation in the Southwest, and (the) Desert Rock (facility) will help fill that need,” said Sithe spokesman Frank Maisano.

Source: www.denverpost.com

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