Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Confrontation

My comments at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) meeting on Nov 8, 2007.
I made this presentation right after a string of pro-coal advocates had each made their case why we just had to have coal-fired power plants in Steptoe Valley. Now; If you've only heard the argument once, it sounds enticing. Basically, it goes like this: "Ely's had some bad times... and we just need the money." But, after hearing this same story over and over and over again, it really started to sound pathetic. After hearing the same story so many times, I eventually started to hear "We're broke, and we'll do anything for money." I can't believe that some of the most respected members of our community could allow themselves to be so taken. The money has clouded their thinking. We can only hope that by the time they finally agree with us, it won't be too late. If they could have this evening, they would have signed our lives away.

So, before I began, I said a little something to the audience:

"Well, its unanimous. We all agree that White Pine County is POOR!
But let's not shoot ourselves in the foot over it.
This is about far more than Ely's economy."

Thank you for being here.

Sierra Pacific (SPR) has revealed their contempt for our environment when they operated the Mojave power plant without required pollution control equipment right until it was forced to shut down. This corporation has been fined millions of dollars – and would be fined more if the PUC enforced the Renewable Portfolio Standards.

The coal/power industry has earned our lack of trust by buying political influence. They spent over $36 million in campaign contributions in the last two elections.

Personally, I don't see where these coal-fired power polluters can do any long term good. Even when it comes to jobs, there will be more jobs in the long run without them.

Knowing this, many of us are concerned about who's side the PUC is on.

As we all know, the biggest power customer in this area will be SNWA. Some of this power is for the water grab. SNWA has admitted it themselves. What bothers me is that, apparently, the PUC doesn't see any problem with this. Is it just fine that others from our State can take the water from beneath our feet, and reward us with polluted air? Hey! We're citizens of this State too.

With massive reserves of geothermal, solar, and wind energy; Nevada can be an exporter of power, without having to import coal – or waste water. The National Academy of Science states that there is only a 100 year supply of coal – at current use. America may already be close to peak coal production. Nevertheless, 3rd parties control the supply of coal. Our dependence on coal is an invitation for market manipulation, rolling blackouts, and exorbitant costs. Need I remind you that wind and sunlight will always be free.

Coal-fired proponents infer that only coal provides “baseline” power. But, geothermal and thermal solar power can provide baseline. There are new technologies that can turn waste into fuel. And photovoltaics and windmills can store power in compressed gas, flywheels, or even ultracapacitors. Besides, its usually blowing somewhere. Moreover, the biggest draw on power in the largest population in Nevada is air conditioning. We need the most air conditioning during the middle of the day, which just happens to coincide with the most sunshine. The claim that only coal can provide reliable power is just not true. However, what we can rely on from coal is tons of 70 toxic pollutants.

Skeptics of science believe that human induced Global warming is either a neglectable problem or too far off into the future for us to care. Both of these arguments are quite obviously irresponsible. Worse, they're wrong. Our polar ice caps are melting, our forests are burning, our weather is getting less hospitable, and thousands of species risk extinction. If there is a natural global warming occurring, we want to do everything we can to prevent a double punch of natural and human induced Global warming. Nevada is already seeing drought, pine beetle infestations, and abnormal wildfires. We need to do everything we can to at least prevent an increase of Global warming pollutants now, not 60 years from now.

If SPR were to sequester millions of tons of CO2 underground, that CO2 is bound to leak out. The ground underneath the Great Basin is porous. The USGS claims that there are large deposits of water underneath the Great Basin Valleys – and these deposits are interconnected. SPR's only option would be to pipe the CO2 someplace else – maybe hundreds of miles away. This would be extremely expensive. So, pardon me for not being impressed that SPR has provided an empty lot and lame promises that they will do carbon sequestration “when it becomes economically feasible.” SPR wants us to commit to decades of Global warming pollution, while the only way carbon sequestration will ever happen here is if taxpayers and ratepayers pay for it... and it won't be cheap.

We all know that big corporations have a way of getting around government legislation. If the coal industry gets it's confusing version of cap and trade legislation for carbon emissions, don't expect cleaner air. If the PUC just says no to coal-fired power plants, now, we could set that cap at zero on new power generation – because wind, solar, and geothermal energy won't emit any CO2.

If SPR builds coal-fired power plants, don't be surprised if they lose customers. People will install their own clean power. We can be angry at SPR, but they have simply adapted to our system. The more power they sell and the more corners they cut, the more money they make. We need to completely decouple profits from irresponsible behavior. We are beginning to pay them for the power they save and the clean power they help generate. But we also need to make them pay for the unnecessary damage they cause. The EPA states that 24,000 Americans die prematurely every year from coal pollution. If SPR had to pay the true costs for coal, including unnecessary health care costs, they would be first in line for truly clean energy.

No matter how we generate power, there will be both construction and maintenance jobs. Alternative power can provide clean, safe, and sustainable jobs. That's right, sustainable jobs. Coal will eventually run out, but wind and sunlight will be around forever.

Just how will history remember us? Nevada can set an important example, or we can be part of the problem – actually worse. By building coal-fired power polluters, Nevada would be taking one more step towards being the toxic waste dump for the Nation.

So, who's side is the Public Utilities Commission on?

I really hope you're on our side – for everyones' sake... in the long run.

Rick Spilsbury

1 comment:

tonyrobin said...

The PUC, whos side are they on? Come on Rick this is a trick question. And heres a trick answer, they are certainly not on the side of the health and the environment of the state, no, no, they are in the pockets of BIG BUSINESS, just like the present administration.