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Power company wants Sevier County initiative nixed

Published: Monday, Sept. 1 2008 12:46 a.m. MDT

Attorneys for a power company are suing to remove a ballot initiative in Sevier County that could stand in the way of a new coal-fired power plant.

Proposition 1 would require voter approval before the county can issue a "conditional-use" permit for facilities like a power plant. It would also revoke permits already approved for construction of a power plant.

Fred Finlinson, representing Sevier Power Company, said the proposed plant falls under the county's "planned unit development" ordinance, not the "conditional-use" permit.

He's hoping a judge will make a fast decision. Ballots for the election to go print in mid-September.

"I feel confident the judge will rule in our favor," said Finlinson.

In the spring, more than 1,500 voters signed petitions from the citizen-driven Right To Vote committee, specifically targeting the county's conditional-use ordinance as it relates to coal-fired power plants.

In July, county commissioners let the initiative advance to the ballot and then said the proposed power project falls under the development ordinance, not the conditional-use permit.

The switch means the ballot measure no longer applies, said Finlinson.

Jeff Owens, an attorney for Right To Vote, said the move is an attempt to skirt the initiative.

"This is a conditional-use permit they're seeking. Whether you call it a pig, horse or cow, it is what it is," said Owens. "I don't think that will sit well with the people of Sevier County."

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