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Rio Tinto Kennecott To Shut Down Coal-Burning Units A Year Early EdwinPics

A new agreement between Rio Tinto Kennecott and Rocky Mountain Power means three coal-burning units in the Salt Lake Valley will close a year earlier than expected.

A nine-year power-purchasing deal between the two energy companies and approved by the state this week will allow three of four power-generating, coal-burning units in Magna to be shut off permanently.

Rio Tinto Kennecott spokesman Kyle Bennett says closure of the units will eliminate an annual 3,500 tons of emissions along the Wasatch front. 

“All of us that live in this valley know that every bit of reduction is very helpful,” Bennett says. “It’s something that we’re all trying hard to achieve, one way or another.”

State regulations didn’t permit those units to burn in winter months. Bennett says they have already been shut down for the winter and will not be fired back up in the spring.

Officials with either company would not disclose details of the agreement, but Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Paul Murphy says Rio Tinto Kennecott will purchase more power from the utility, which he says will help keep fixed-rate costs steady.

“Our goal is to keep electricity rates as flat as possible,” says Murphy, “and this agreement will help us do that.”

Matt Pacenza is the executive director of HEAL Utah, a group that advocates for clean air and renewable energy. He called the mining company’s decision to reduce coal-fired emissions along the Wasatch front a step in the right direction.

“At the same time,” Pacenza says, “folks need to recognize they’re not switching to clean energy. They’re basically switching to a fossil-fuel-dominated fleet, which is burned elsewhere in Utah.”

Officials with Rio Tinto Kennecott say there are no “foreseeable” plans to shut off the Magna operation’s fourth coal-burning unit.

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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