Reid bullies private company. Where’s the outrage?

Victor Joecks

I can’t believe the subdued reaction this got from the media, including Steve Sebelius writing an opinion column that just described what happened.

On Tuesday, the second most powerful man in the United States, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, publicly called for a private company, in this case NV Energy, Nevada’s monopoly electricity provider, to stop doing something that’s perfectly legal – producing cheap energy from a coal power plant.

Earlier Tuesday at the conference, Reid took aim at the state’s primary electricity provider, NV Energy.

During his opening remarks at the Bellagio, the Nevada Democrat criticized coal plants and said it’s “time to close the dirty relic we’ve built.” He acknowledged that closing one plant would not solve all energy problems, but for NV Energy, “the first step should be turn out the lights on Reid Gardner, and turn them out forever.”

The Senate majority leader was referring to NV Energy’s Reid Gardner Generating Station near Moapa, northeast of Las Vegas. The coal-fueled, steam-electric generating plant was built in the 1960s, though NV Energy says it has undergone “extensive technology improvements and is among the cleanest coal-burning facilities in the nation.”

Here’s how the Review-Journal described it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took a break from stumping for renewable energy at Tuesday’s National Clean Energy Summit to slam NV Energy for keeping its Reid Gardner coal-fired plant open 50 miles outside of Las Vegas.

Reid’s comments came just days after he criticized the utility for not agreeing to buy power from ENN Mojave Energy LLC, a Chinese company that has proposed a major solar energy manufacturing and generating plant near Laughlin, but is finding few takers for its planned output.

These aren’t just empty words. As Thomas Mitchell notes Sen. Reid fought and killed a pair of privately funded coal power plants NV Energy wanted to build in 2009. Just one of those plants would have created 200 permanent jobs.

Also worth noting is that Sen. Reid’s son works as a lawyer for ENN Mojave Energy. Are Reid’s comments just another way to pressure NV Energy to buy more expensive solar energy from ENN?

Regardless, why is anyone okay with this? A powerful government official is singling out a specific company to stop a legal business action.

To my friends on the left, consider if the shoe were on the other foot. Imagine a powerful Republican politician publicly telling a solar power company to shut down its completely legal power plant. Would you be outraged? 

This isn’t about having a policy debate. It’s about a politician using his power in a way that attacks the freedom of a private company, although NV Energy is utility monopoly.

Sen. Reid’s threats should have generated outrage from the right – and the left.