Power to the people

 

The burning question in Sevier County, Utah, to build or not to build a new 270-megawatt coal-fired power plant, will be answered by voters in November.  Sevier County citizens collected enough signatures to place Proposition 1, which would amend the county's land use ordinance to require a vote before approving any permits for coal-fired plants, on the ballot.  However, the measure was bounced off the ballot following a District Court decision in September.  But yesterday, the state Supreme Court overturned that decision, giving citizens some direct power over development in their communities.

Earlier this year, Utah's state legislature passed a bill that prohibited the use of ballot initiatives to create or change land-use and zoning ordinances.  The Supreme Court's ruling, which has not yet been released, will likely strike the law down as unconstitutional. 

According to a Salt Lake Tribune article, 175 absentee ballots have already been mailed to voters -- without Proposition 1.  Every vote will count in this rural county (which has fewer than 19,000 residents), where a seven-year-long battle has pitted those hoping for the new jobs promised by Sevier Power Co. against those who fear the negative environmental impacts.