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Sempra Drops Coal Power Projects

From Times Wire Services

Sempra Energy said it abandoned plans to build coal-fired power plants in Nevada and Idaho in the face of strong opposition.

Sempra Generation, a subsidiary of the San Diego-based energy company, said it would instead concentrate on storage facilities for liquefied natural gas and pipelines in Mexico, Louisiana and Texas. Sempra Energy also is the parent of Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

Sempra had proposed building a 1,200-megawatt coal-fired power plant at a cost of about $2 billion in Nevada and a 600-megawatt coal plant at a cost of about $1 billion in Idaho.

The electricity produced by those plants could have been sold locally or exported to California and other states. One megawatt of power-plant capacity serves about 750 typical California homes.

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Sempra Generation President Michael Niggli sent a letter to Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and leaders of the state Legislature on Wednesday saying that the company would sell the development rights to the Idaho project. Sempra also is abandoning the Nevada project, spokesman Art Larson said.

A few hours after Niggli’s letter was received, the Idaho Senate passed by a 30-5 vote and sent to the governor a bill calling for a two-year moratorium on coal-fired power plants. The Idaho House overwhelmingly passed the measure last week.

The proposed moratorium “would seriously compromise the willingness of investors” to develop energy projects in Idaho, Niggli said in the letter. Sempra’s decision also was made “in light of significant capital expenditures and investments” the company is making elsewhere, he said.

Sempra had been working to downsize the Nevada project because of California regulations proposed to reduce global warming. The regulations would prohibit the importation of power from new coal-fired plants.

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