Citizens group takes on Sigurd power plant — again

Concerns • Opponents worry that inversions will trap pollution.
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Opponents of a natural gas plant near the Sevier County town of Sigurd say the Utah Division of Air Quality made mistakes in its decision to grant the Sevier Power Co. a permit to build a 540-megawatt plant.

Sevier Citizens for Clean Air & Water is challenging the permit in what is believed to be the first case under a new system enacted by the Utah Legislature earlier this year.

"The challenge was initiated because UDAQ has failed to follow its own rules in determining the actual air quality in Sevier Valley prior to issuing the permit," said Dick Cumiskey, president of the group.

Having successfully defeated the company's previous plan for a coal-fired power plant at the site, Sevier Citizens said air-quality officials made a variety of errors in their decision-making this time, including ignoring key points during the public-comment period earlier this year. Now the group wants Department of Environmental Quality Director Amanda Smith to take a fresh look at the case and reverse the permit.

The case is one of the first two reviewed under the new administrative-review process established with SB11 in the 2012 Legislature. And like the challenge filed to the air-quality office's decision to allow the Tesoro refinery to expand, this case will be decided by the department's executive director rather than by the air-quality board, which used to handle appeals.

"Just because our county is not along the Wasatch Front does not mean that our air is, by default, clean," Cumiskey said.

The group has argued that a power plant does not belong in the area because of inversions that trap pollution in the valley. And, although the air is cleaner in the area than other parts of the state, the new power plant permit will boost pollution toward federal limits.

"This leaves virtually no room for future growth," said Cumiskey, "in addition to the health problems that are likely to be experienced by those citizens already relying on supplemental oxygen for life support."

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