Rocky Mountain Power pushes back closing date for coal plants 

We are disappointed but not surprised to hear Rocky Mountain Power’s recent decision to backtrack on its commitment for early retirement of coal-fired power plants in Utah.  Initially, the company had proposed retiring Emery County’s Hunter and Huntington power plants by 2032, aiming to transition towards cleaner energy sources. However, citing regulatory developments and financial challenges, Rocky Mountain Power announced that it would adhere to the original retirement dates of 2036 and 2042.

PacifiCorp’s Hunter Power Plant in Castle Dale, UT. It’s one of the dirtiest in the country.

In 2023, a jury found Rocky Mountain Power’s parent company liable for billions of dollars in damages in Oregon’s 2020 wildfires. The power company cites the lost lawsuit as a setback in their plans, which, thanks to a bill passed last session, Utah residents will be contributing to their legal funds for. 

The decision not only delays efforts to reduce carbon emissions but also affects air quality in Utah. Coal-fired power plants are significant contributors to air pollution, emitting harmful pollutants that pose health risks to residents. Several harmful emissions come from coal combustion, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates and mercury. A report from major education institutions estimated that between 1999 and 2020, 460,000 deaths would not have occurred if there were no coal plant emissions.

The reversal also impacts Utah’s progress in meeting climate goals, as coal remains one of the most climate-damaging fossil fuels. 

A recent op-ed published in the Salt Lake Tribune from St. George resident, Jean Lown, asks “Why is no one asking why the Legislature has failed Utahns who work in the coal industry and live in communities dependent on those incomes? We’ve known for more than a quarter century that the future of the coal industry was limited. What have legislators done to bring new industries to coal country and to provide training and education for 21st century jobs?”

A previous Tribune article quoted a St. George legislator claiming the coal plants clean the air. This assertion contradicts massive bodies of scientific evidence and makes a mockery of the significant environmental and health risks associated with coal-fired power generation. By prioritizing coal over cleaner energy alternatives, legislators risk exacerbating environmental degradation and jeopardizing public health.