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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A group of municipal utilities is moving ahead with plans to add a coal-fired power plant in central Utah despite a dwindling customer list and opposition from environmental groups and doctors who want Utah to switch to cleaner power.
Many California cities sent word they weren't interested in having the power wheeled to them. Their interest dropped off after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation in September requiring California utilities to buy energy from clean-burning sources to curb global warming.
Three municipal systems in Utah also turned away, but another 30 Utah cities have signed power contracts and seven more are looking to join, said Jackie Coombs, spokeswoman for Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, a power supplier for 49 Intermountain West municipal systems.
"It's moving forward," Coombs said. "We're looking forward to construction."
Utah produces 94 percent of its power from polluting coal-fired plants, but that's starting to change. Laura Nelson, Gov. Jon Huntsman's energy adviser, said three major wind farms planned in Utah could produce 500 megawatts by 2008. Most of that power will be sold to Southern California Public Power Authority.
Coal is still king in Utah. Intermountain Power Agency would operate the 900-megawatt plant -- enough to keep nearly 3,000 houses continuously powered -- in Millard County.
Intermountain Power Agency, which is controlled by 23 Utah municipalities, already operates an 1,800-megawatt coal plant in nearby Delta.
The agency plans to fire up the new plant in 2012 pending an appeal by the Sierra Club and the Grand Canyon Trust to overturn an air-quality permit granted by the Utah Air Quality Board.
The environmental groups filed the appeal in 2004 but were denied legal standing by the Air Quality Board. They protested that decision up to the Utah Supreme Court, which ruled in November that the board must hear the appeal. Hearings are scheduled for October
A group of doctors, meanwhile, is pressuring Huntsman and other leaders to reject coal-fired power for cleaner energy sources. Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, which was formed about six weeks ago, contends medical conditions aggravated by air pollution kill 1,000 people a year along the Wasatch Front.
The doctors are scheduled to make their case to the Utah Air Quality Board on May 2.
Coal-fired power plants release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and mercury, which has been linked to neurological and respiratory problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
One Utah city still looking at buying some of the power is Bountiful, just north of Salt Lake City.
"Show me where we can sign up for renewable power that is cost-effective and reliable," said Bountiful City Manager Tom Hardy. "As soon as we can do that, I will sign up tomorrow. There isn't anything that's like that out there now."
Information from: Deseret Morning News.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)