According to a Reuters article dated July 26, 2007 and titled Reid tells four companies no coal power in Nevada, Senator Harry Reid, the United States Senate Majority leader recently wrote a letter to four companies that have been planning to build coal fired power stations in Nevada. His strongly worded letter let them that he was not in favor of their projects. He plans to use his influence as a US Senator to attempt to keep coal plants out of his home state.
As a general rule, the US federal government has no direct control over the decision of whether or not to build coal fired power stations. The exception is when a station or its supplying infrastructure is located on federal land or when the station requires the permission of a federal agency (like the Bureau of Indian Affairs). Unlike nuclear power plants, coal plants are not licensed by the federal government and they are thus not automatically covered by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 that requires a federal Environmental Impact Statement for any “major federal action”. (Here is an excerpt from the governing law.)
The Congress authorizes and directs that, to the fullest extent possible: (1) the policies, regulations, and public laws of the United States shall be interpreted and administered in accordance with the policies set forth in this Act, and (2) all agencies of the Federal Government shall –
. . .
(C) include in every recommendation or report on proposals for legislation and other major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, a detailed statement by the responsible official on –
(i) the environmental impact of the proposed action,
(ii) any adverse environmental effects which cannot be avoided should the proposal be implemented,
(iii) alternatives to the proposed action,
(iv) the relationship between local short-term uses of man’s environment and the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity, and
(v) any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources which would be involved in the proposed action should it be implemented.
As many readers of Atomic Insights know, Senator Reid has also expressed his dislike of nuclear power plants and nuclear by product storage areas in his home state. According to his letter to the coal companies, Reid’s preferred power options include “renewable power and energy efficiency”.
Though his letter does not mention natural gas, Reid’s position is a de facto endorsement of that fuel source since more than 70% of Nevada’s electricity comes from burning natural gas. The sources that he openly favors are completely inadequate for the task of supplying the energy needs of one of the most rapidly growing states in the nation.