SALT LAKE CITY — Rio Tinto Kennecott and Rocky Mountain Power inked a power purchase agreement that will shut down three coal-burning power units a year ahead of schedule, reducing emissions by more than 3,500 tons annually from the mining giant.
The nine-year agreement approved Thursday by the Public Service Commission is the result of a contentious new law regarding Rocky Mountain Power, oversight by the Public Service Commission and what impact it may have to ratepayers.
"Everybody said what a controversial piece of legislation STEP was, but it has so many elements that clean the air in Utah," said Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Paul Murphy.
The Utah Sustainable Transportation and Energy Plan, or STEP, was signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert earlier this year and shepherded through the Utah Legislature by Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams, R-Layton.
While criticized heavily by consumer watchdogs and clean air advocates as a mechanism to remove oversight of the utility from the Public Service Commission, the law in this instance granted greater flexibility and an extended deadline for Rocky Mountain Power and Rio Tinto Kennecott to reach an agreement on electrical power supplies.
"There are significant impacts with this power agreement," said Kennecott spokesman Kyle Bennett. "There is a lot at stake, but both of us had the ability to come to the table, stay at the table and negotiate."
The power purchase agreement means Kennecott will permanently decommission the three coal-burning units.
Bennett said the units are always shut down during the winter, but their elimination from the emissions pool for the rest of the time over the ensuing years will help clear Utah's air of harmful pollutants.
“This agreement helps to provide rate stability for our customers and improves the air we breathe,” said Cindy A. Crane, Rocky Mountain Power's president and CEO.