RICHFIELD — A controversial coal-fired power plant has cleared another hurdle following a 3-2 vote Wednesday night by the Sevier County planning and zoning commission.

The approval of a preliminary conditional use permit for the proposed 270 megawatt power plant near Sigurd generated a heated response from the standing room crowd that had gathered in the hearing room at the county government building.

"(This is) not what I was hoping for," said Utah Moms for Clean Air member Shaunna Bastian, who lives about a quarter mile away from the proposed plant site. "I will wake every single morning, open my blinds and look at this thing."

The tensions surrounding the proposed facility have been around for several years and have resulted in numerous lawsuits filed by the Utah chapter of the Sierra Club and protests by local residents and advocacy groups.

Bastian accuses Sevier Power Co. of lying about various aspects of the project, including the potential health impacts of piles of ash that will be a waste byproduct of the plant.

"I like being able to breath," she said. "Out of the eight members of my family, four of us have asthma, including myself. This would just make it so much worse for us. My children would have to breath this."

She said if the plans for the plant continue, her family will likely be forced to relocate.

"We don't want to move," said the mother of six whose husband is a fifth generation farmer in the community. "I was hoping tonight would be a great Christmas present and they would say 'no' or push (the project) back, but they didn't."

Bruce Taylor, co-owner and manager of Sevier Power, acknowledged the negative feelings and harsh words expressed by many in the decidedly anti-power plant audience.

"It's always difficult for people to see industry around their house," he said. "Our goal is to be as friendly to those people as humanly possible."

A number of people approached Taylor and his partner, Rod Clark, after the hearing and voiced their displeasure directly, one man blurted out, "You suck!"

Those words did not deter Clark from explaining his side of the issue.

"To license the disposal of ash takes the same kind of permit as for disposal of community refuse," said Clark, managing member with Sevier Power. "It's not a hazardous material."

Clark said the potentially harmful elements left in the ash are inert and would pose no health concern.

Critics have argued the plant would increase pollution in the narrow valley encompassing Sigurd, Richfield and the surrounding communities. However, the Utah Division of Air Quality has reviewed the plans for the facility and signed off on the project.

The project has been in the works for more than five years and has been involved in a long legal battle since its initial public presentation to area leaders.

Sevier Power recently won a court decision that threw out an appeal by environmentalists, paving the way for the project's eventual development.

Taylor and Clark said the project still has a long way to go before any electricity is generated by the plant. The affirmative vote by the planning and zoning commission now allows the proposal to move on to the Sevier County Commission, which is expected to put it under further scrutiny before taking a vote.

"It is a very divisive issue within the county," said Dick Cumiskey, of the Sevier Citizens for Clean Air and Water. "Before the commissioners can sign off on it, they've got to satisfy not only themselves, but the citizens of the county that the correct decision is being made."

E-mail: [email protected]