Sevier County, Utah --
The developer whose eight-year effort to build a coal-fired power plant in Sigurd, Utah has withdrawn the legal action to force a permit decision by the Sevier County commissioners. Known as the state's "ripcord" law, the statute was enacted by state lawmakers to avoid delays to developers that receive opposition to their plans. Sevier Power Company invoked the statute in November of last year and the matter was scheduled for the commission agenda this coming Monday, May 4.
Sevier Power Company's plans have received considerable opposition since announced in the fall of 2000 by Commissioner Gary Mason as a boon to the county's economic development efforts. As more and more of the developer's plans became known to the public, opposition mounted, including two actions that have been presented to the Utah State Supreme Court and at least one in Utah's sixth district. Meanwhile, the county's population and median income numbers have modestly increased, along with most of the state of Utah.
"This takes some of the heat off of the commissioners," said Dick Cumiskey, a "non-lawyer" activist who presented oral arguments along with Jim Kennon, the president of Sevier Citizen's for Clean Air and Water, to the state's highest court. "The county commissioners won't feel compelled to act one way or the other on the permit until some of the courts can rule."
Late last year, the Sevier County commissioners authorized their county attorney, Dale Eyre, to hire additional legal resources in anticipation of even more court entanglement. With several aspects of the permitting process presently being litigated, the recent action by Sevier Power Company allows time for the respective courts to act on motions and arguments already presented.
Also in 2008, the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club joined the Sevier Citizen's for Clean Air and Water, asking the Utah Supreme Court to rule on carbon-dioxide emissions as a polluting "greenhouse gas" that should be regulated. Sevier Power Company's design plans do not include the sequestration of carbon-dioxide which the federal Environmental Protection Agency recently ruled is a pollutant. Plans also include an exhaust stack in excess of four hundred feet which the citizen's group says if built, will be the tallest man-made structure in the state.
One of the nation's chief climate scientists addressed an audience at the University of Utah earlier today. (see comment update)