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Clean Power Plan Finds Supporters, Critics In Utah

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In 2013, Utah's coal created royalties of over 40 million dollars.

On Monday, President Barack Obama unveiled the Clean Power Program to combat carbon emissions across the country. The plan, which requires states to meet certain emissions reductions, was hailed by environmental groups as a step in the right direction.

Opponents have criticized the plan, claiming that it will lead to a rise in energy prices. Some Utah officials, including Gov. Gary Herbert, have called for the plan to be rejected. Lindsay Beebe of the Sierra Club in Utah said that the President’s proposal was the right move, and that she expects pushback from state officials.

“We’re excited about it. It’s definitely taking a huge step in making good on his commitment to climate change and showing the world that America is serious about leading this fight on the climate crisis,” Beebe said. “It’s hard to say at this point as to how Utah officials will react. I definitely think that there are some that really recognize what an opportunity this can be for Utah but also that there are some ideological barriers that we will have to overcome.”

In 2013, about 17 million tons of coal was produced by seven Utah mines. The Beehive State’s coal industry has a total sales value of over half a billion dollars. Beebe said that those mines will soon outlive their use.

“Here in Utah we are heavily dependent on coal power. About 80 percent of our power comes from coal and our coal fleet is in a various state of age,” she said. “Coal plants are intended to last 30-35 years at most, and that’s when they reach the end of their economic life. Some of the other fleet that Rocky Mountain Power owns, they were built in the mid-70s, so they’re reaching the end of their economic life, as well.”

The current prediction from the Bureau of Land Management is that Utah coal mines have about 15 years of reserve remaining.