Nancy Perkins, Deseret Morning News
Carol Martin signs a giant Christmas card opposing construction of a coal plant near Mesquite. The card will go to Nevada's governor.

ST. GEORGE — Lumps of black charcoal and a giant, festive Christmas card are on the way to Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons' desk, thanks to a growing group of Dixie residents upset about a proposed coal-fired power plant across the Utah border near here.

"We're asking Gov. Gibbons to please be nice, not naughty, next year and deny a permit to the Toquop coal plant," said Lin Alder, executive director of Citizens for Dixie's Future in St. George.

Chunks of charcoal — 186 pounds of it in all — were made available for anyone to drop in padded envelopes addressed to Gibbons, who has voiced support for construction of several coal-fired plants in his state.

More than 100 residents attended the rally at Vernon Worthen Park in St. George on Monday, many wearing cheerful Santa hats as they wrote messages and stuffed envelopes to be mailed to Gibbons.

The proposed $1.2 billion Toquop Energy Project would be constructed by Sithe Global Power on 200 acres of federal land about 12 miles northwest of Mesquite. It would generate 750 megawatts of electricity for Las Vegas and Arizona customers, according to Sithe documents.

Sithe officials say the plant would use the latest clean technology to prevent pollutants from drifting toward Washington County. The company also recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection to make pollution control changes once the technology becomes commercially feasible.

"These plants along with renewable energy projects can all be part of Nevada's energy plan," Gibbons wrote in a statement he issued in September to the Nevada Environmental Commission as it considered a petition to place a moratorium on coal-fired plants in the state.

Nevada needs the transmission lines that the power plants would provide, Gibbons wrote, adding it would "not be fair to the applicants" that have invested millions in the permitting process.

It's that kind of thinking that has Craig Booth and other Dixie residents more than miffed at the Nevada governor.

"It's been proven over and over again that we get the spillover from Nevada," said Booth, a medical doctor who grew up in St. George. "A lot of people have their head in the sand and don't care if the vista around here is clear. But I do. I'm even more concerned with what we can't see: the sulfur-containing compounds that ruin your heart and lungs."

The city councils of Springdale and Rockville, both small towns on the outskirts of Zion National Park, recently approved a resolution in opposition to the proposed power plant.

Springdale Council member Louise Excell told the crowd that residents of southwestern Utah have received coal for Christmas before and don't want any more.

"We got fallout from the nuclear testing in Nevada, all in the name of national security," she said. "We do not want it to happen again."

Jon Lymon, a former miner from Nevada who now lives in St. George, said emissions from the proposed coal-fired power plant near Mesquite would "end up here.

"I'm now a Republican redneck dead-set against coal," he said. "It's not acceptable what they're doing to us. It will bring long-term trouble."

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