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Fewer Lumps

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Opponents of proposed coal-burning power plants in Idaho can breathe a sigh of relief.

Idaho Power has scrapped plans to build enough coal plants to power more than 187,000 homes by 2013. The reason? It just costs too much.

According to the company's latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, increasing costs, permit challenges and public concerns about air pollution prompted the decision.

The focus will now shift to natural gas, with plans to build a natural-gas-powered turbine in southern Idaho by 2012. Plans also call for an additional 101 megawatts of wind power by the end of 2008, and 45.5 megawatts of geothermal power to be brought online in stages through 2011.

The move earned praise from many of the state's leading environmental organizations.

"We congratulate the company for abandoning short-term plans to invest in coal and focus instead on a cleaner natural-gas plant to meet its coming energy needs," said Ken Miller, Clean Energy Program director for the Snake River Alliance, in a written statement.

This doesn't mean Idaho Power is giving up on coal power entirely. The company owns a portion of three Western coal plants, including a one-third interest in the Jim Bridger Coal Complex in Wyoming, a half interest in the North Valley plant in Nevada and 10 percent of the Boardman plant in Oregon. Roughly 40 percent of the electricity bought by Idaho Power customers comes from coal-burning plants.