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John Hollenhorst ReportingThe governors of four western states announced an agreement today to build a huge electrical transmission line. It would likely cut across Utah and have a far-reaching impact for decades.
The driving concept is to connect Wyoming coalfields with California's electrical grid. But Utah's governor says it will substantially benefit our state as well. And even people who don't like coal-fired power plants see some potential benefits.
The new power line is intended to beef up the existing power grid which critics say is aging, inefficient and unreliable. The governors of Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California envision a major transmission line connecting all four states. The exact route is undetermined as yet. Cost estimates are in the range of 2 to 3 billion dollars.
Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr.: "It will probably be as important to our generation as Hoover Dam was to my grandparents' generation. Something that we can't do without for very much longer."
The power line would deliver more electricity to growing cities in California, around Las Vegas, and along the Wasatch Front. Clean energy advocates are cautiously, tentatively supportive.
Sarah Wright, Exec. Dir., Utah Clean Energy: “What is critical is what sort of energy facilities are placed onto that transmission line.”
Much of the electricity would likely be generated by burning coal in Wyoming. The governors say they hope for development of cleaner coal-burning technology. They also say new energy sources may develop along the transmission line. Perhaps even Utah would see a boom in renewable resources such as wind power, solar energy, and geothermal heat.
Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr.: "We've got the raw materials necessary to exploit a whole bunch of these new areas of energy. But we don't have the transmission capability."
If a new transmission line does stimulate new and cleaner energy sources it may win wide acceptance.
Sarah Wright: “However, on the flip side, if we use this transmission to build old technology coal plants, then we're saddling the interior west with the pollutants associated with those plants to serve California's energy appetite."
Many questions remain to be answered -- the route of the transmission line, who would build it, how it would be paid for. It's expected to take at least five or six years to get the project underway.