Utah lawmakers OK tweaks to law aimed at keeping coal plant alive

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Utah lawmakers on Wednesday amended a law aimed at keeping the state’s largest coal-fired power plant in operation to ease concerns raised by the Intermountain Power Agency (IPA).  

House Bill 3004, which passed both chambers during a special session, makes changes to legislation signed into law by Gov. Spencer Cox in March that requires IPA to participate in efforts to operate the plant near Delta, Utah, beyond its July 1, 2025, shutdown deadline.

Utah lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday that tweaks a law aimed at keeping the state’s largest coal-fired power plant operating beyond its July 2025 shutdown deadline.

Bloomberg News

IPA, which asked Cox to veto the coal plant bill, has warned the measure puts nearly $2 billion of bonds it issued in 2022 and 2023 to finance its transition from coal-fired generation to more environmentally friendly natural gas and hydrogen in jeopardy.  

IPA General Manager Cameron Cowan urged the House Public Utilities, Energy & Technology Interim Committee on Wednesday to advance HB 3004, saying it “makes some important adjustments, and definitely moves things in the right direction.”

Cowan did not immediately respond on Thursday to questions on how the bill, which sponsors said modifies various deadlines, addresses IPA concerns.

Cox, who ordered the special session, told reporters in March there was a strong possibility SB 161, which envisions the eventual sale of the coal-fired plant to a third party, would need to be tweaked.

On the House floor, Republican State Rep. Carl Albrecht said the shutdown of many coal and gas plants has made the Western and national electricity grids vulnerable and that the coal-fired IPA plant should not be shuttered.

“We don’t want to destroy it, we cannot afford to destroy it,” he said. “It’s reliable, affordable, dispatchable power.”

IPA sold $797.6 million of tax-exempt and taxable power supply revenue bonds in 2022 to begin financing cleaner energy generating units. Last year, another $835 million of bonds, rated Aa3 by Moody’s Ratings and AA-minus by Fitch Ratings, were sold.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the nation’s largest municipal utility, is the IPA’s biggest power purchaser, as well as its operating agent and project manager. An IPA official has said the transition to natural gas and hydrogen will allow the agency’s California power purchasers to meet their state and local renewable and clean energy targets and requirements. 

IPA, a state of Utah political subdivision organized in 1977, has 23 Utah municipalities as members.

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