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Utah Power is selling back its steam heating plant at 40 N. 200 West to the plant's only customer, the LDS Church. That means the plant won't have to charge the church 20 percent more for its steam, which is used to heat buildings.

The plant was built by the church in 1910 so it could provide heat for Hotel Utah. Later it was sold to Utah Power. For a time the plant supplied electricity but then reverted strictly to steam for heating.At first the plant was coal-fired, but in 1969 the boilers were switched over to burn natural gas, which is non-polluting.

Utah Public Service Commissioners approved ending the plant's commercial career, when nobody objected to the change. Seven workers keep the plant going, said a spokesman.

According to the PSC's order, the steam-heating service "no longer meets it costs." In order to make it cost-effective, a rate increase of 20 percent would be required, but at that rate the service wouldn't be a competitive source of building heat.

In 1993, commissioners allowed Utah Power to stop selling the service to new customers. At that time, the company said it'd eventually petition to terminate the public service altogether.

"The only properties still connected to the service are those of the LDS Church," wrote commission chairman Stephen F. Mecham and commissioners Constance B. White and Clark D. Jones. The two parties have negotiated the church's purchase of the steam-heating plant and related properties.

When that happens, the plant will no longer be obligated to provide the service as a public utility and the plant's certificate of public convenience and necessity will be terminated.

Commissioners told Utah Power to inform the PSC when the sale will be closed.

"We don't have a final agreement with the church yet (on the purchase), but it's close," said Utah Power spokesman Dave Es-kel-sen. "Also in discussion is a three-year operating and maintenance agreement."

If the agreement is approved, the plant would continue to use Utah Power employees.

For several years, Utah Power has worked to get customers other than the church off the plant's steam. "We provided some incentives to help buildings . . . move to other, more modern, heating sources," he said.

The last of the non-church customers went off the system in the summer of 1995, Eskelsen added.