The two Democratic House members from Utah and Idaho teamed up Tuesday to declare war on the proposed Thousand Springs coal-burning power plant in northeast Nevada.
Reps. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, and Richard Stallings, D-Idaho, said the plant will give power to the West Coast and jobs to Nevada - but only smoke and pollution downwind to Utah and Idaho.But Utah's two Republican House members - Reps. Howard Nielson and Jim Hansen -immediately said the Democrats are overreacting and that the plant may not be as bad as they say.
Still, Owens said at a Capitol news conference, "It is something like a 1,000-mile sewer pipe dumping sewage from the West Coast into our plains and cities in the West. We would never permit that with water, and we certainly shouldn't permit it with air."
Stallings added, "The people of Idaho should be able to expect better for the future than to continue to accept the nation's nuclear waste and now the West Coast's fossil fuel waste."
The two wrote a letter to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Director Cy Jamison opposing the plant. The BLM would have to approve an exchange of 15,960 acres of public land to allow construction of the plant.
Their letter asked the BLM to stop the land swap, or to at least revise a draft environmental impact statement to address potential pollution in Utah and Idaho. Owens said, "The only place where it looked at pollution was in Nevada and that was totally inadequate."
About his alliance with Stallings, Owens said, "It seems like public-land states, like Idaho and Utah, have to form meaninglful alliances and have to go public with important factors" to prevent becoming the dumping ground for the nation's waste.
He added, "This is also another example of . . . regions of intense growth like the West Coast extending polluting tentacles into the cleanest parts of the nation to construct power plants that could not be constructed, because of existing pollution, in the areas for which they are intended."
Stallings noted that Rep. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, has also sent a letter opposing the plant.
But Owens' Republican counterparts from Utah are not so supportive.
Nielson said, "I think they are overreacting." They seem to "ignore the fact that half will come from Utah mines," he said. He added that the plan will use scrubbers to reduce pollution so sulfer dioxide output will be less than a quarter of the new standards proposed before Congress. He also said that if Colorado had similar objections coal burning plants in Utah, some of them might not be operating.
Hansen thinks , according to his press secretary, Rick Guldan, that legislative solutions to any environmental problems are not yet necessary. "But we will monitor to insure environmental problems - if they exist at all - are adequately addressed."
But according to Owens, "The time has come for energy-hungry regions to look inward rather than outward. It is time for these regions to get serious about conservation and clean alternative energy.
"Our birthright to clean air should not be sold for a mess of wattage."
Owens also listed several of the problems he sees with the proposed plant.
"The stacks are too tall; pollution controls are inadequate; the concentrating effects of inversions are ignored in the draft environmental impact statement; the effects of the real landforms on the flow of polluted air are not discussed; a Class I Wilderness are in Nevada will see deterioration of its air; and scarce groundwater is likely to be depleted."
He also said, "The 450-foot stack is clearly intended, contrary to Environmental Protection Agency directives, to transfer the pollutants downwind."
Stallings also worried that some of the air pollution would flow through the Snake River Valley to the Yellowstone National Park area. He also said it is ironic the plant would be proposed just as Congress is debating a new Clean Air Act to help cleanse pollution such plants help create.