by Alixel Cabrera, Utah News Dispatch

The Utah Legislature will hold a special session likely in June to discuss a controversial bill that would extend the life of the coal-fired Intermountain Power Plant, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said Thursday.

“We did have some changes that needed to be made to the bill dealing with a phased-out power plant in Millard County. So, as I mentioned when I signed that bill, we would be working with the sponsor and others for some changes,” Cox said during his monthly news conference on PBS Utah

He referred to SB161, Energy Security Amendments, a bill that would prevent plans to close two coal-fueled generators at the Intermountain Power Plant, located near Delta. 

The bill would require the Intermountain Power Agency, owned by 23 Utah municipalities, to allow the state to buy the generators. Ultimately, Utah would try to find a third party interested in purchasing them. 

Those municipal owners opposed the legislation, asking the governor to veto SB161 citing a “rushed” approval process in the House and Senate, risks for the construction of a multibillion-dollar natural gas facility, and the potential of heavier federal regulations. 

The agency also argued that as California, its largest client, moves away from fossil fuels, costs to keep the coal plants running would move to Utah municipalities and ratepayers. However, for the majority of Republican lawmakers, retiring the generators would take a toll on Utah’s energy supply. 

When asked about the possibility of a special session, Sen. President Start Adams said the Legislature is committed to making Utah energy independent and investing in innovative solutions without abandoning reliable and affordable energy sources.

“We are having discussions with the governor’s office regarding SB161 and a possible special session to ensure the best possible path for our state’s long-term prosperity that will benefit all Utahns and keep our energy sector strong,” Adams said in a statement.

A House spokesperson also confirmed they are working on a special session to address some technical changes. But, details are still uncertain.

The state is trying to avoid litigation with Intermountain Power Agency, Cox said on Thursday. But, the state acknowledges that “might not be possible.”

Cox signed the bill in March, but included some remarks about it in his veto letter

“We signed these bills with the express understanding that we will work together to address those concerns,” he wrote about SB161 and SB273, which would require the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office to track time spent on criminal cases and provide an annual, written report to a legislative committee. 

During his March PBS conference, Cox said the state would exhaust every possibility to keep the power plant running while ensuring environmental regulation compliance.

“We’ll continue working very closely with IPP, we’ll be continuing to work closely with regulators,” Cox said in March. However, he added, he doesn’t expect any “monumental” changes.

Utah News Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Utah News Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor McKenzie Romero for questions: info@utahnewsdispatch.com. Follow Utah News Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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