Group seeks air-quality study before state OKs power plant
Environment • It claims there are too many unknowns to say the project will be safe for residents.
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Local health and environment advocates want state regulators to monitor Sevier County's air pollution before finalizing a permit for a power plant in Sigard. In a letter released Monday, they ask county commissioners to join them in making the request.

"If they do not choose to do an actual study of the air here, we may be forced to challenge the permit," said Dick Cumiskey, president of Sevier Citizens for Clean Air and Water.

The proposed 580-megawatt electric plant would generate an estimated 977 tons of pollution each year, but critics say no one really knows what the impact will be because current pollution levels haven't been monitored. Plant proponents originally planned to use coal back in 2001 — a project that would generate an estimated 3,000 tons of pollution a year — but they abandoned that idea after the citizen's group successfully challenged the air-pollution permit issued by state regulators.

Now Sevier Power Co. plans a gas-fired electric plant, and air-quality officials are expected to sign off on the project soon.

Cumiskey, who retired to the area for its low-key quality of life, said the economic and health impacts of guessing wrong on future pollution are too great. He noted that more than 700 county residents use supplemental oxygen and are at risk from added pollution.

"It's never been measured," he said. "They just make assumptions. They are making a decision that has a 40-year scope on it."

In addition, the citizens group plans on Thursday to petition the Central Utah Public Health Department on the question, which has a mandate to improve and protect health for everyone in the six-county area.

The county commission heard from Cumiskey at its meeting Monday afternoon.

But commission Chairman Gordon Topham said he's not sure the commission is in a position to take any action on the power plant proposal once the Division of Air Quality has approved the permit. The commission accepted the information provided by Cumiskey and will consider it, he said.

"We don't control the air quality — that's the state," he said. "What he's going to ask us for is not in our bailiwick. I'm not sure we can even request" the air pollution study.

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