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It’s very, very hot down there in Arizona right now, and no, it’s not the dog days of summer rampin’ it up…
2 Supervisors deny travel expenses for power plant expert

By Shar Porier

Published on Tuesday, August 14, 2007

BISBEE — Cochise County Board of Supervisors member Paul Newman will not be able to use taxpayer funds to pay for transportation of an expert he feels would bring insight he needs to make a decision about the proposed Bowie coal-powered electrical plant.

In a specially-called meeting Monday afternoon, Newman asked for legal advice about bringing in a Minnesota lawyer who is an expert on Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle technology to answer questions on the proposed Bowie 600-megawatt power plant.

Newman believed there was a minority issue since he is the only Democrat on the board of supervisors.

“As a minority member of this board, I have the right and the duty to find the best expert in the country to enlighten all the constituents of Cochise County, and, in fact feel it is my fiduciary duty as a member of the minority. I feel I am an individual supervisor with the need to ask questions,” he said to board chairman Richard Searle and Supervisor Pat Call both of whom are Republicans.

Carol Overland, he explained, has been at the center of a heated debate on a similar project in Minnesota. He feels her expertise in the field would provide insight as to what questions the supervisors may want to ask pertaining to the plant’s operations, emissions and by-products.

“She was on the legal team who brought the project to a halt. She knows the kind of questions we need to ask of Southwestern Power Group. I feel I found an essential person to help me ask the pertinent questions,” Newman said.

In a memo given to Searle, Call and county staff he wrote, “The public deserves to hear Ms. Overland’s national perspective in order to understand the importance of this major zoning proposal. The public has a right to know the pros and cons of this proposal. On a personal note, I believe that this zoning decision will be the most important decision of my two terms in office.”

Newman asked Cochise County Attorney Ed Rheinheimer if he could use his discretionary travel funds to pay for her travel expenses from Minnesota to Arizona. Rheinheimer responded, “To me it’s a policy issue for the board whether or not to approve the expenditure of funds. Travel funds are discretionary funds, but they have limitations … She has no formal relationship with the county. She has not been hired or placed on retainer for her opinion. I’m not questioning her expertise or that she could help. But, the board has to approve the expenditure of taxpayer money.”

County Administrator Mike Ortega agreed and added his opinion that the town hall meeting is for Newman’s constituency, so the spending of county funds to appear before one supervisor may not be a viable expense. He added that Newman would have to convince the other two supervisors that another expert opinion is needed.

The county recently contracted with EDAW (Eckbo, Dean and Williams based in San Francisco) to look over the IGCC plant and proposed recovery systems, with funding provided by Southwestern Power Group II.

Newman was hoping to get Overland on a videoconference call, but was told by county clerk Katie Howard the supervisors meeting room did not have that capability. It was only available in the small conference room. Since Overland would not be able to be seen or heard by the public, Newman then asked if he would be permitted to have her talk via long distance on a conference call.

He was told that would be doable. Overland may be able to offer her advice during the upcoming work session tentatively set for later this month or at the future meeting where the fate of Bowie’s coal-powered plant would be decided.

For now, Newman will have to rely on activist Nancy LaPlaca at the town hall meeting.

LaPlaca is involved with a similar IGCC plant proposed in Colorado.

Though Newman asked Searle and Call to attend the town hall meeting, neither will be able to do so because of scheduling conflicts.

The town hall meeting will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. today in the supervisors’ meeting room on Melody Lane.

Herald/Review reporter Shar Porier can be reached at 515-4692 or by e-mail at


And more…

Some urging alternative to proposed power plant

By Shar Porier

BISBEE — “I looked at the company in length online and I don’t believe their evil; they’re just trying to work with what exists, but it’s too late for that.”

So said Cochise County resident Michael Gregory in regard to Southwestern Power Group II during Tuesday night’s town hall meeting held by county Supervisor Paul Newman on the proposed Bowie power plant. The meeting was aimed at getting questions answered and information to the public.

“We should be leapfrogging into new technologies, like solar,” Gregory added.

He knows about solar. He’s been using solar energy to power his home for 35 years.

Gregory was one of several who spoke out against using coal to create energy, no matter the technological advances of integrated gasification combined cycle that creates a heated synthetic gas from coal to generate electrical power.

David Getts, general manager of Southwestern Power Group II, gave a brief overview of the 600-megawatt electrical generation project, but hit a stumbling block when it came to admitting that carbon sequestering via greenhoused vegetation as has been proposed was an unknown.

“We know we cannot go underground here,” Getts said. “We want to sequester carbon dioxide in tree seedlings or vegetables in state of the art greenhouses. … We are all worried about global warming. We know control of carbon emissions is coming. So we want to develop a strategy of carbon sequestration, but we don’t know what the targets will be or what the hurdles will be. We don’t know how much carbon we will be able to capture and use.”

Getts said he would like to build a solar plant here in Arizona, but utility companies won’t buy electricity generated by the more expensive solar power.

But Nancy LaPlaka, an environmentalist working in her home state of Colorado to fight a proposed integrated gasification combined cycle plant there, said the cost of solar and the cost of integrated gasification combined cycle with the capture additions are pretty much equal, and there is the added benefit of no carbon emissions.

“These things used to be decided by just a few people, but now pollution is a community issue,” she said. “Coal plants are one of the biggest producers of carbon dioxide. They produce 60 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions.”

She pointed out how the addition of scrubbers, the cooling systems and the filters to remove contaminants in the system reduced plant efficiency, and so it has to burn more coal to produce more power. In fact, carbon dioxide capture alone decreases output by 20 percent.

“Clean coal is an oxymoron,” she said.

Elna Otter, who represented the Sierra Club, questioned whether the county actually needed a power plant at all.

“We have enough power for our needs,” noted Otter. “Most of the power produced will go to other places. … We can’t be sure the predictions of Arizona growth will come about.”

She suggested that the power plant be built at the coal mines to save transporting it.

“The Sierra Club will support coal only if it is mined responsibly, burned cleanly and meets environmental responsibilities. … We promote clean energy,” Otter added.

Newman granted most of the time to those who wanted to speak and the experts he brought in. And he said to Getts, “I want to give the people a chance to talk and ask questions, since they did not get the chance at the work session we held with you. All your experts got to speak, but even I did not get to ask all the questions I had.”

He said he wanted to hold a second town hall once the results were in from the San Francisco-based firm Eckbo, Dean and Williams, the consultants hired to advise the Board of Supervisors and the county Planning Department on what conditions to place on the rezoning request.

Since the county consultant’s staff received all the material only recently, the tentatively scheduled work session for next Tuesday was postponed until sometime in September, said Jim Vlahovich, the deputy county administrator. That could put the vote on approval of the rezoning request off until October.

HERALD/REVIEW reporter Shar Porier can be reached at 515-4692.

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