Development of this project represents an exceptionally valuable opportunity for the tribe to utilize its natural gas resources to fuel power generation on the reservation for the benefit of tribal members and the surrounding community. —Ronald Wopsock
FORT DUCHESNE, Uintah County — The Ute Indian Tribe plans to explore the development of a 1,000-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation in northeastern Utah.
Tribal officials, in a statement announcing the project, said the proposed plant will make productive use of the "vast amount of land and energy resources" on the reservation.
"Development of this project represents an exceptionally valuable opportunity for the tribe to utilize its natural gas resources to fuel power generation on the reservation for the benefit of tribal members and the surrounding community," said Ronald Wopsock, vice chairman of the tribe's governing Business Committee and a member of the steering committee formed to manage the project.
The proposed generation facility will be built with state-of-the-art emissions control technology, according to the tribe's statement.
"As a result, the project will serve as a source of clean energy to replace outdated coal-fired power plants, such as the Bonanza Plant in the Uinta Basin, which have caused significant damage to the local environment,” Wopsock said.
In July, Deseret Generation & Transmission Cooperative, which operates the 500-megawatt Bonanza Power Plant, agreed to pay $35,000 in penalties to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The company's violations of the Clean Air Act arose from the emission of excess pollution at the Bonanza plant, according to federal court records.
In addition to the penalty, Deseret agreed to put new procedures in place for controlling particulate emissions during startup and shutdown of Bonanza's coal-fired boiler, court records show. The company also agreed to pay $260,000 to convert at least five fleet vehicles in the area to run on natural gas.
The tribe has hired Southern California Telephone & Energy to help develop its power plant project. The company said the proposed plant, operating at maximum capacity, could power up to 850,000 homes a year.
Construction of the plant is expected to create up to 950 direct jobs, according to the tribe. Once the facility is built, it is expected to pump "hundreds of millions of dollars" into the local economy during its first decade of operation, the tribe's statement said.
Rich Mylott, spokesman for the EPA's Region 8 office in Denver, said the tribe will need to obtain a federal permit before moving ahead with construction of a power plant. Once an application is submitted, it takes about 12 months for the permitting process to be finalized, Mylott said.