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Utah Lawmakers Poised To Go To Court Over California's 'War On Coal'

Photo of the Intermountain Power Plant in Delta.
KUER File Photo
The view from the top of the coal-fired Intermountain Power Project plant in Delta, Utah. The plant ships most of its energy to California. IPP will close in 2025 largely because of California's plans to reduce carbon pollution.

Utah could be headed to battle against California over coal.

A legislative spending panel voted to hire lawyers to mount the legal fight. They approved $2 million for initial steps to overturn California’s 2006 gradual ban on electricity from coal, and the state’s surcharge on coal-fired power — both part of that state's goal to combat climate change.

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, said California’s laws are illegal and violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“This is critical for the whole state of Utah,” he said, “not just for my county but it’s all the coal mines in the state of Utah.”

GOP Rep. Carl Albrecht, whose district includes coal-rich Emery County, added: “I think California’s law is way out of bounds.”

A representative from the Coal Hollow Mine in Noel’s Kane County spoke in favor of the spending. He said demand for Utah coal has led to 40 percent lower production and a scaled-back workforce.

Lawmakers said California's laws are cheating schoolchildren out of revenue from coal sales. They also say California shouldn’t be allowed to impose its values on Utah.

As a symbol, coal is also designated as the state rock.

The spending still faces a few hurdles, like edging out other state programs that are seeking money from the General Fund.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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