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Ute Indian Tribe developing natural gas power plant

Published May 22, 2014 9:54 am

Energy • The leaders say they aim to close coal-fired plants.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Ute Indian Tribe has announced plans to develop a 1,000-megawatt power plant on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in hopes of spurring economic growth and cutting emissions by providing a cleaner source of electricity to power the Uinta Basin's oil and gas boom.

Tribal leaders have only begun planning the project, which they say would feature the most advanced emission controls, and are embarking on a feasibility study, according to Ronald Wopsock, vice chairman of the Ute Tribal Business Committee.

The timing and location for the proposal have yet to be determined.

The Utah tribe's aim is to tap its large holdings of natural gas reserves "to replace outdated coal-fired power plants, such as the Bonanza Plant in the Uinta Basin, which have caused significant damage to the local environment," Wopsock said.

Such a plant would be the third largest in Utah, on par with Rocky Mountain Power's Huntington coal-fired station in Emery County and capable of powering 300,000 to 500,000 homes.

"The Business Committee encourages and supports the development of the tribe's resources in a manner that will provide long-term and sustained benefits to the tribe so that our members can look forward to a clean energy future," said Wopsock, a member of the steering committee established to oversee the project.

"Utah doesn't allow gaming," he said, "so we have to look at [other] avenues to generate revenue for our people."

The plant would create 950 construction jobs and generate plenty of indirect employment through the development of pipelines and transmission infrastructure, according to the tribe. It would then inject hundreds of millions of dollars into the area economy during its first decade of operations, the tribe said.