Subject: White Pine Energy Station Draft Environmental Impact Statement
I found the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) woefully inadequate and the actions planned to be irresponsible and possibly even illegal. I implore you to take your time, evaluate our options, inform me of actions I can take, use your best judgment, and be brave in the face of corruption at the top. Our political situation will change. Technology will change. Our understanding of the Environment will change. The evaluation of this project is not straightforward. You will have to live with your decision for the rest of your life. Please consider my statements with an open mind and a caring heart.
You have no right to give away our land. You have no right to sell our land... at least not without our permission. And you don't have our permission. We never voted on this. This is Western Shoshone land. This is the American peoples' land. We don't want our land polluted, when there are better options. This is not something that has to be done out of necessity. This is really more of an effort to maximize some corporation's profits. If this isn't illegal, it sure should be. As a citizen of the United States, I want to know why this isn't illegal. I think it is. And I want to know how to change the law, if it isn't. Until this matter is cleared up, it is not your job to OK this draft Environmental Impact Statement. Don't ignore me. The DEIS documentation review of the public scoping input gave me the impression that no actions were taken. It appears that somebody counted the comments... and that's it. What kind of responsiveness is that? It simply isn't.
We, the citizens of the United States of America, need this land in its natural state more than some fly-by-night Limited Liability Corporation. This land has survived in it's present state, supporting my ancestors for thousands of years. LS Power/Dynegy claim that they need to despoil this land. The massive toxic waste dump they will leave will make this land uninhabitable essentially forever. There is no need to do that.
Wind power, solar power, geothermal power, dams, wave power, and tidal power all generate electricity without any toxic waste. Power can be stored in banks of flywheels. Modern day flywheels are 99% efficient, and utilize no toxic chemicals. Also, the technology for ultracapacitors is improving. They are already replacing batteries in some applications. The up front price to go totally safe, clean, and renewable may be higher now, but only if you ignore the total costs to society. Coal is just this corporation's way of socializing the costs. We, the citizens of the United States, have no need to pay for these corporations' profits with our health, the well-being of our region, and the environment of our planet.
We, the citizens of Rural Nevada, do not need this power. We don't even want this power. We have power. California doesn't want coal-fired power. And most Nevadans don't want coal-fired power. A poll taken by Public Opinion Strategies in March of 2007 found that 87% of Nevadans prefer increasing energy efficiency and relying on more clean power as a better option than building new coal-fired power plants in Nevada (see “resource media” chart). We don't need it. We don't want it.
Someday soon, building pollution factories like this will be illegal. That's why the coal industry is in such a hurry. For them to claim that they now burn “clean coal” and that they are “environmentally responsible” is a sure sign of what liars they are. Coal gasification costs 10 to 20 percent more, and is far cleaner. But that slightly higher price has LS Power/Dynegy telling us that the technology “isn't ready yet.”
The price of solar power is dropping precipitously. By the time this coal-fired pollution belching monstrosity is built, solar power will very likely be cheaper to generate. And it's very likely that there will be carbon taxes that consumers will end up having to pay too. There will be no cost savings for the consumer. Within just a short time, the cost differences will be far different than this draft Environmental Impact Statement claims. And what about the social costs, the health care costs, and of course, the environmental costs?
Our polar ice caps are already melting. It's simply a lie that building a coal-fired power plant is “environmentally responsible.”
Nationwide, power plants use 48% of our fresh water (see “Where does U.S. Water Go?” chart). We are in a nationwide drought, with no end in sight (see “Drought plagues South and West” map). Our rivers, especially in the West, are being fully utilized – and many of our aquifers are being drained. Obviously, when there are alternatives that use no water at all, coal-fired power is in no way “environmentally responsible.” If we ignore these obvious facts, that makes us just as irresponsible.
By law, corporations must serve the best interests of their shareholders. The courts have interpreted those interests as creating wealth, bottom line. However, corporations also have to be environmentally responsible by law. But these laws are apparently less important. Assuring that these corporations are truly environmentally responsible is the Government's job. Unless we force these corporations, they won't be environmentally responsible. They're simply more focused on making money.
WPEA won't provide “low cost electricity.” They will sell at what the market will bear. As a corporation, they essentially have to by law. Inevitably, the price of coal will rise – as soon as America commits to burning it for the next 50 years. Shortages will mysteriously occur. Coal deliveries will somehow not make it on time. Doesn't anybody remember Enron? I'll bet the coal industry does.
The draft Environmental Impact Statement barely even mentions alternative power generation – other than to say that LS Power/Dynegy won't make as much money if they generated power not using coal. What does that say about our system? If it's cheaper to corrupt the government into giving you the land – if it's cheaper to kill people and wildlife with your pollution – if it's cheaper to upset the critical balance of the weather – if it's cheaper to push our civilization ever closer to collapse; then it must be the right thing to do – because it's cheaper. I say no way! Evey rational person in this country who has paid any real attention agrees. And we're getting other people's attention. In time, everyone will be against this. Alternative power generation has been alternative for far too long. The technology is ready. Unfortunately, some politicians have done everything within their power to run alternative power companies out of business. Guess who pays their campaign contributions. If alternative power companies would have received even a fraction of the 80 billion dollars the coal industry has taken from the US taxpayer in the past 50 years, alternative power would already be mainstream. This draft Environmental Impact Statement pretends that it would be impossible to do anything other than burn pulverized coal. LS Power/Dynegy are simply lying. Not only do alternatives need to be more closely studied, but the future change in costs of alternative power generation needs to be considered. If we can hold out just a few years, and do everything we can to conserve power, the price of alternatives will likely be far less expensive than coal.
A sure sign of how cheap LS Power/Dynegy are, is how they seem not to have even considered actually paying for the land for their power plant. Sure, they may pay for the part they don't want to be regulated by the Federal Government. But the property they want is our land. At some time or another, LS Power must have considered buying private land instead of taking pristine public land. But they somehow seem to have forgotten to publish why they chose this option. Allow me to speculate for a moment; maybe they figure that the cleaner the land they start with, the more they can pollute it.
Why did LS Power decide to build a coal-fired power plant instead of some mix of alternatives? Because that's what they do. If you go to a surgeon, expect the treatment to be surgery. If you go to a executioner, expect the treatment to be very major surgery. This is what they do. This is how they make their money. They never really considered alternative power. They don't know how. For the past 30 years, America has lost our lead in alternative power generation. LS Power can't compete. So they come up with some lame excuse, like truly clean technologies can't generate that much power. Lies! Maybe they can't do it all under one roof, but why should that be a constraint? It simply shouldn't.
If White Pine Energy Associates LLC/LS Power/Dynegy truly wanted to do the best they could with coal-fired power, they would have proposed IGCC (coal gasification) and carbon sequestration. They don't really wish to be clean. They don't wish to do the right thing. They wouldn't even be in the coal business if they were. Lying is still lying, even if it is just a lie of omission. Remember the oath; “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” If they printed the whole truth, we'd find somebody else to build our power generation.
Part of the whole truth is that there are other, less polluting fuels they could burn. Natural gas and biomass could be co-fired with coal to substantially reduce emissions. Was that mentioned in the draft Environmental Impact Statement? I couldn't find it.
Another part of the whole truth that seems to be missing; is the option of doing nothing. If this coal-fired power plant doesn't get built, most likely the world will not come to an end. But if enough coal-fired power plants do get built, maybe our Earth's environment will collapse. Our civilization literally could come to an end!
Where are the customers? If the Sierra Pacific coal-fired power plant gets built, White Pine Energy Station will have no customers. If Nevada joins the other Western States, and commits to a 20% reduction of Carbon Dioxide emissions by 2020, WPES may have no customers for hundreds of miles. Oh, excuse me, they already don't have customers for hundreds of miles.
In the real world; the polar ice caps have already begun to melt. Just check out the picture of a river of melt-water in Greenland on the cover of June's National Geographic Magazine (see “National Geographic” cover photo). If this melting continues, just on Greenland, sea level will rise 10 feet. Trillions of dollars in damage could result, millions of people could die, and many thousands of species could go extinct. Why? Why would our society want to take that kind of risk? We all know that White Pine Energy Associates Limited Liability Corporation won't cover the costs.
What about right here in Steptoe Valley? The toxic waste dump our coal-fired power plant will leave us (as a gift to keep forever), won't have a liner. Even if it did have a liner, there is no such thing as a perfect container. Flooding and runoff could wash some of those toxic chemicals into the ground, into Duck Creek, and even into Goshute Lake.
If water runoff takes toxic chemicals into the groundwater, a significant portion of Steptoe Valley groundwater could be contaminated. In truth however, this is just a matter of time. To future generations, it won't matter that all of us may be dead by the time this happens.
This is just so wrong. And if the Department of the Interior allows this to happen, they are setting a precedent. From now on, any time some big corporation wants some land, all they'll have to do is go to the BLM and say they want some land. Why should they get free land just because they can afford to buy it.
When I look out at Steptoe Valley, when I visit Great Basin National Park, I am always awed by the natural beauty. It is really going to suck when all that beauty is gone. There will be smog. There will be a lot of smog. The smog will be hideously thick at times. If LS Power/Dynegy were to tell us the truth about all the smog, nobody here would approve... nobody. This Limited Liability Corporation just hopes we don't realize how bad things will be until it's too late to stop it.
Low visibility, however will likely be the least of our worries. Global warming is already effecting our weather, our environment, and our power bills. Maybe the greedy management at LS Power/Dynegy just figure that if temperatures go up, they'll just sell more power. Well... maybe not. Maybe they plan on someday installing carbon sequestration. Yeah, right. Only if the alternative is jail time.
Not only will habitat be destroyed by the construction of the plant, habitat will be destroyed downwind of the smokestacks. Not only will wildlife die because of loss of habitat, wildlife will die because of poisoning. Not only will wildlife die because of pollution in their bodies, wildlife will die because of pollution in their ecosystem. Not only will wildlife die because of a chemical imbalance in their ecosystem (and the Earth's ecosystem), wildlife will die because of an imbalance in our planet's atmosphere. Where in the draft Environmental Impact Statement is a complete assessment of the devastation that is extremely likely to happen? Nowhere.
I noticed something just recently. People are moving away – and no one new is moving into town. That was never mentioned in the DEIS. In fact, the possibility that a significant portion of the population might be so unhappy as to move away, leaving no one except the power plant employees in White Pine County was something like an impossibility, if you read the DEIS. That's how the DEIS reads. They infer that the population is only going to go up. Well, we've already stopped growing. And it looks like the biggest potential taxpayers are getting prepared to leave. There may come a day when the only people in town work at the prison, the power plant, the railroad, and the toxic waste dumps that will inevitably come once the rail line gets built. Sounds like a wonderful place to live... not.
What about our taxes. They're sure to go up. Somebody will have to pay for the infrastructure and services for all those new construction employees. White Pine Energy “Associates” won't be. They hardly made any commitment whatsoever in the DEIS – other than to pay taxes (to stay out of jail). But, the taxes won't really kick in until the plant is built. Before then, we raise our own taxes, or we do without.
Just as WEPA thought they might get away with belching tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the Supreme Court goes and requires the EPA to do its job and regulate CO2. I guess WPEA will need to add a little fluff into the DEIS to claim that they give a damn.
I really don't believe that White Pine Energy “Associates” cares about the toxic chemicals they will emit. Of the 70 dangerous chemicals listed on a table in the DEIS, they only bothered to even talk about 5. The rest, well...
And if LS Power/Dynegy aren't even willing to talk about the effects of all these dangerous chemicals, I couldn't find anything in this document that even mentioned the cumulative effects. Since WEPA didn't, allow me to give you a rough idea. Everyone will be a little less healthy. Some people will come down with chronic illnesses. Some people will die young. Some young people will have learning disabilities. Some people may go crazy. And LS Power/Dynegy have “protected” themselves financially from this devastation by seeing to it that their Limited Liability Corporation can only be sued for so much.
Oh, by the way. Whatever cumulative effects happen to people, the effects will be far worse for wildlife. Wildlife can't drink bottled water. Wildlife can't go indoors and filter their air. Wildlife can't go to the doctor. And wildlife can't move away if it gets too filthy.
White Pine Energy Associates LLC/LS Power/Dynegy's apparent position on all this; too bad – as long as they make their profits. I would love to be proved wrong on this one. There still is time.
I'm not a religious man myself. (I prefer not to have an opinion on such a profound subject.) But I do admire Jesus. He had the nerve to stand up against oppression and greed, knowing that he might be tortured and killed. In my own way, I see standing up against the oppression of rural areas and the greed of the coal industry as something Jesus might have done. I do sometimes wonder if the Christians have it figured out. Maybe there is an afterlife. Maybe there is a heaven that, if we get it right here, we might go to. One thing I would expect is that; if there is a heaven, and we make a mess of things here on Earth, we won't be welcome there. Another possibility is that Heaven and Hell are abstractions of our concepts of our options for the future. With planning and effort, we can create a little bit of Heaven in our own future. With the wrong kind planning and effort, our future could be a living Hell.
It's not my job, man.
It's not my jurisdiction.
It's not my job to stop this coal-fired power plant.
It's my job to give it an OK.
Turns out, nobody has the job of saying no.
Don't you think that's the way they planned it?