Trial was set to begin Tuesday, but didn't, in the lawsuit by Utah Power & Light Co., environmental groups and 143 cities against the environmental and power marketing practices of the federal government's Western Area Power Administration.

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene had a nine-day trial scheduled. But lawyers for the parties told him in a brief session that they are negotiating toward a settlement.Donald B. Holbrook, who represents UP&L and the 143 cities, said the parties are trying to see if "there's some basis for settlement without the necessity of a trial."

Greene asked lawyers to return at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 7 to report their progress.

Holbrook told the Deseret News the negotiations don't only cover the environmental issues that remain before Greene, but the substantial issues that Greene dismissed. Plaintiffs appealed that dismissal.

The claims of illegal power brokering by the power administration are pending before the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The power administration was created in the late 1970s to market the cheap hydropower generated by federal dams, such as Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. The administration also sells power it purchases from coal-fired plants.

The power is resold to power administration customers at a blended rate, which is partially subsidized by federal hydropower. Plaintiffs say the power administration ends up selling non-federal power at lower rates to certain favored customers. These include publicly owned utilities.

UP&L filed the suit in October 1986, saying no environmental impact statement has ever been written covering such things as the operation of Glen Canyon Dam causing damage downstream in the Grand Canyon. Also, UP&L wants economic effects of the power administration's marketing to be studied.

Opposing the plaintiffs are the federal government and the Colorado River Energy Distributors Association, a regional organization of publicly owned power systems, including several in Utah.