This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
In a state where foul air quality is clearly public enemy No. 1, it seems ludicrous for any government agency to do anything to encourage any new source of atmospheric pollutants.
And it smacks of downright malfeasance for relevant jurisdictions to support such schemes with minimal information about how the technology is supposed to work and scant opportunity for public comment.
Yet the Carbon County Commission has lent its support to a plan by an outfit called Revolution Fuels to use a new process which it declines to define to supposedly turn tons of coal into hundreds of thousands of gallons of motor and jet fuel.
And into hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide, particulates and other forms of pollution.
And the Utah Division of Air Quality has had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into sponsoring even one public hearing Wednesday in Wellington on the state permit the operation will need.
Both jurisdictions act as though their primary purpose is to help a single company dig up more of the coal that fewer and fewer people want, supposedly to turn it into something more marketable. Their duty to protect the public's health, and its right to know, come in a distant second.
The county commission's backing of the plan involved no public discussion. Its only official action was a promise not to tell anyone what if anything it might know about the company's "proprietary" method for turning coal into various liquid fuels. The county, and the DAQ, seem to be taking it on no more than faith that the process will work, will be economically feasible and will produce no more pollutants than promoters say it will.
Which is a lot.
Giving Revolution the backing and permits it seeks is not only a matter of protecting, or not, public health. It is also an issue of giving a stamp of official approval to a business plan that may or may not deserve it, an imprimatur that the company can only be expected to tout as it seeks investors.
The spot that the county and the state are needlessly putting themselves in is that, once permits are issued, money is raised, money is spent, holes are dug, buildings are erected and employees are hired, it will become all but impossible, politically if not legally, to stop the enterprise. Even if it doesn't work, or if it produces more pollution than promised, or if pollution standards are finally tightened.
Together with Carbon County-based efforts to support a coal-handling port in California, it all smacks of serious denial of the fact that coal's moment has passed and that it is time for Utah to look to other, sustainable, ways to power its grid and its economy.