The national fight over coal-fired power plants played out Thursday in Utah’s highest court. Justices heard oral arguments on two cases intended to force the Sevier Power Co. to use the toughest pollution-control technology available for the 270-megawatt electricity-generating station it has planned for Sigurd.
The legal sparring came the day after the justices issued an emergency order that allowed Sevier County citizens to vote on the plant in the Nov. 4 election. Both the outcome of the vote and the justices’ decisions in Thursday’s cases could cause even longer delays for the $600 million power plant, which received its state air-pollution license four years ago. “It’s not a very comfortable place to be,” said company spokesman Fred Finlinson, whose company insists it is planning to use the cleanest technology available.
For Jim Kennon and Dick Cuminsky, the Sevier County residents who argued the first of Thursday’s two cases, the Supreme Court’s attention was both logical and timely. They have been fighting plans for the plant in their rural valley since first hearing about it eight years ago. And, on Thursday, the non-lawyer duo told the justices the state Division of Air Quality had illegally extended the company’s license.
“Actually, I agreed with everything they [the justices] said,” Kennon said afterward, “and what could be better than that?”
Joro Walker, an attorney for the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, noted that the case is one of several in state courts to take up the question of whether greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide should be regulated as a pollutant, as a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court case directed.
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