Utah’s coal country: Long-term survival rests with diversification

June 01, 2017 (Deseret News)

The Intermountain Power Plant built 30 years ago in Millard County was the biggest project ever constructed in Utah, generating $500 million over its history and creating an energy hub for the rural area.

It is also a great gobbler of coal, consuming 4.4 million tons in the last fiscal year, or roughly a third of Utah’s production, to power Southern California homes and businesses.

In this community traditionally linked to farming and ranching, the two-unit, 1,800-megawatt power plant lit a fire under the economic prospects of the sparsely populated Millard County, growing more than 400 good jobs for local workers.

Just as the coal-fired power plant transformed this region of Utah, coal dependent communities are going through their own economic metamorphosis, as a new report points out, with pressure coming from dwindling jobs and declining production.

In its third installment in its series on coal, the Utah Foundation’s report released Thursday details homegrown optimism that the fossil fuel will power homes for decades to come.

But the report also emphasizes that the communities that thrive long term will be those that aggressively embrace economic diversification, as opposed to towns that are pouting wallflowers late to the dance

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