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The first shots of the 1990 Wayne Owens-Dan Marriott 2nd District race have been fired. And not surprisingly, they're over the environment.

Marriott, a Republican, charged that Owens is an "environmental extremist" for opposing the construction of a coal-fired electrical power plant in northeastern Nevada that could effect Utah's air. Marriott says the jobs are needed and the environmental concerns can be taken care of.Republican leaders have been critical of Owens, the only Democratic member of Utah's congressional delegation, for some time on his environmental stands. They especially ridicule Owens' desire for 5 million acres of wilderness in the state and Owens' suggestion that wolves be reintroduced in Yellowstone Park.

Owens and Rep. Richard Stallings, D-Idaho, have written a letter to the Bureau of Land Management encouraging the federal agency not to trade land for the Thousand Springs plant, saying the plant's current design will result in pollution that will drift over Utah and Idaho.

Marriott said, "Instead of working to eliminate the plant, we should make every effort to ensure that the plant uses the most up-to-date and effective pollution control technology available. That includes wet scrub pollution control rather than the dry scrub system currently under consideration.

Owens says Marriott doesn't know what he's talking about. The plant developers are using a dry scrub system because not enough water is available at the plant site for wet scrubbers.

"The Thousand Springs plant would annually emit from its 450-foot stacks 13,000 tons of sulphur dioxide, 34,000 tons of nitrous oxide, 1,200 tons of particulate matter and 9,000 tons of carbon monoxide. Prevailing winds will carry a good percentage of this into Utah," Owens said.

Marriott said if the polluted air would drift into Utah, the plant should be required to meet Utah clean air standards.

Owens was joined Tuesday in his opposition to the current plant design by the all-Republican Salt Lake County Commission. Commissioners cited a recent Environmental Protection Agency report showing the county was out of compliance with clean air standards.

Marriott said Owens was trying to kill the plant rather than pursue solutions that would benefit all concerned parties. "A true environmentalist is one who is concerned about balancing environmental issues with developmental and economic concerns," said Marriott.

But countered Peter Billings Jr., Democratic state party chairman: "Perhaps it is Marriott who is the extremist. A plant that would create jobs in Nevada, burn coal from Wyoming, send power to California and air pollution to Salt Lake County is not a good deal for Utah."

Marriott added he'll meet with the plant's designers. If they won't modify their plans and he's convinced Utah's air quality will suffer. "I'll come out in great opposition to it," Marriott said.