The new Salt Lake County Clean Air Coalition will make opposition to the proposed Thousand Springs Power Plant in eastern Nevada one of its top priorities.
Coalition members said during their inaugural meeting Thursday night in the City/County Building that the plant, which environmentalists fear will affect Utah's air quality, will probably be doomed before receiving operating permits."There's a good amount of opposition in Idaho and Nevada, and those things are very powerful because I think there's been a lot of other projects worse than this stopped with less opposition," said Rudy Lukez, conservation chairman of the Utah Chapter Sierra Club.
"They didn't quite expect the level of opposition they have received. As far as I know, the only politician in Utah on record supporting this is former congressman Dan Marriott."
"If people work and stick together to defeat this thing, we'll be successful," Lukez said. "But it will take a lot of work."
Lukez said the plant, which would be located 26 miles north of Wells, Nev., and 25 miles west of the Utah-Nevada state line, would burn coal that would be shipped by rail from Utah and Wyoming mines.
Representatives of the plant have said they have dropped the projected emission of sulfur dioxide from 0.18 pounds per thousand Btu (units of energy produced), down to 0.15 pounds. But coalition members said they still want the proposal killed.
The coalition, which was formally introduced May 30 on the Capitol steps, with the help of Reps. David M. Jones and Joanne Milner, both D-Salt Lake, has made its initial issues the plant, Gov. Norm Bangerter's Clean Air Coalition and the Utah Bureau of Air Quality.
Among those at the meeting was Sen. Richard B. Tempest, R-Salt Lake, who criticized legislators who have received Political Action Committee (PAC) money to campaign and failed to support a bill that would have improved the quality of the environment.
"We've got a real problem . . .. The problem we have legislatively is that there is such a thing as Political Action Committee (PAC) money that goes to candidates running for office and spent to get elected," Tempest said.
"You're actually fighting the people who want to support you . . . You have people in the Legislature who don't have the fortitude to vote their conscience and vote the way the PACs want them to vote. That's why PACs are a terrible thing and they really ought be outlawed.
"I went around and started checking who paid who and found out that one of these people was heavily financed by the mining industry, the manufacturers, the oil companies and the reclaimers," he said. "These are the main polluters of the air."
Marc Valdez, assistant research professor of meteorology at the University of Utah, said temperature inversions, which trap pollution in the valley, have worsened air quality.
He said that in the winter, the air close to the ground is colder than the air higher up, preventing polluted air and fog from rising. "It's almost as if a lid has been placed on the valley restricting the mixing of air. The generation of pollution, that is severely restricted so you have tremendous pollution in the valley," he said.
Valdez said that's why Wasatch Front communities have special problems with pollution.