Utah governor signs bill to keep large coal plant alive

By Jason Plautz | 03/26/2024 06:59 AM EDT

Backers of the legislation say it would help fortify the grid, but environmentalists warn it could worsen emissions.

The coal-fired Intermountain Power Plant outside of Delta, Utah.

The coal-fired Intermountain Power Plant outside of Delta, Utah. George Frey/Getty Images

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) has signed legislation to keep the state’s largest power plant open past its planned retirement next year, despite warnings that the measure could run afoul of federal environmental laws and work against the state’s efforts to reduce emissions.

The bill — S.B. 161 — could force the current owners of the Intermountain Power Plant in Western Utah to sell the facility rather than retire it. It lays out a process for the state to purchase the plant to keep it open if another buyer is not found. The legislation also establishes a decommissioning authority for the plant.

Although the bill passed with hefty margins in both legislative chambers, it faced significant opposition. The operator of Intermountain urged Cox to veto the bill and federal regulators warned the plan could create problems for the state’s compliance with laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.


Acknowledging the concerns, Cox said there was the possibility of a special session to make “tweaks” to the law. At a press conference last week, Cox added that the legislation offers “lots of opportunities” to “reevaluate” the process of selling the plant.