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August 11, 2016

Group drops water battle, still fighting nuclear plant plan

Click here to read this OpEd by the Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board

Click here to read this story by Brian Maffly of the Salt Lake Tribune

Here is the AP story:

By MICHELLE L. PRICE, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Environmentalists who've spent almost a decade fighting a plan to build Utah's first nuclear power plant said Wednesday that they're dropping a legal battle against the eastern Utah project but are still fighting the facility.

The groups HEAL Utah, Uranium Watch and Living Rivers said they would not contest a Utah Court of Appeals ruling last month allowing the facility to pull water from the Green River to cool nuclear reactors once it's built.

HEAL Utah executive director Matt Pacenza said that by dropping the battle over water rights, the company that wants to build the plant, Blue Castle Holdings, will be forced to start paying hundreds of thousands of dollars on those water rights to local water districts.

"We frankly do not believe they have those resources," Pacenza said. He said the project has not attracted significant investments and no Utah utility companies have stepped up to say they're interested in nuclear power.

"It's a project that we're confident is going nowhere," he said.

David C. Wright, an attorney for Blue Castle Holdings, said he doesn't know specifics about the company's finances but he's confident they'll make the payments. Wright said he's glad to hear the environmental groups won't fight the ruling, but he's confident the state Supreme Court would have ruled in Blue Castle's favor if the case continued.

The 3,000-megawatt plant would occupy a proposed industrial park about five miles from the small city of Green River, about 40 miles upstream from Moab and two national parks, and about 180 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.

Critics argue the nuclear plant would harm endangered fish, swallow a major portion of limited water on the dry Colorado Plateau and hamper outdoor recreation in the area. Green River, a city of about 1,000 people, is known for its melon growing and is a waypoint for hikers venturing out to nearby geologic features and canyons and rafters who are braving the rapids of the Green River and Colorado River.

Blue Castle said the fast-growing state will need an additional power source and the plant would be in an area where about 360,000 acre feet of water are unused each year. The project would pull 53,000 acre-feet of water a year from the river.

Wright said the project can move forward now that it's not being bogged down with a court fight.

The proposal is a year or two away from getting a site permit from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Wright said.

After that, Blue Castle would need an operational permit from the commission. If approved, construction would take five to seven years, according to Blue Castle, which is headed by former state Rep. Aaron Tilton.


Additional information:

Minutes of Kane County Water Conservancy District

1. March 2016 KCWCD Meeting AGENDA ITEM NO. 8: BLUECASTLE HOLDINGS--NUCLEAR POWER PLANT: Mike reported that we had the hearing on January 26th which went very well. There was no new evidence or information brought up from the trial. Attorney John Mabey reported to Mike that he doesn't feel there is any chance that they will be granted an appeal to the Utah Supreme Court on this case. If they decided to appeal this case to the Supreme Court of Utah, there is less than a 10% acceptance rate unless there is new evidence brought up in the appellant court. We should hear back on the decision in June.

2. May 2016 KCWCD Meeting AGENDA ITEM NO. 8: BLUECASTLE HOLDINGS--NUCLEAR POWER PLANT: Mike reported that we are just waiting for the court decision and we believe that we will win the case and will not go to the Supreme Court. We should know by June and at that point we will be getting $100,000 per year which moves up to $300,000 and then when the plant is constructed to $1 million per year.

3. June 2016 KCWCD Meeting AGENDA ITEM NO. 7: BLUECASTLE HOLDINGS--NUCLEAR POWER PLANT: Mike reported that there is no word on a decision from the Appeals Court. John Mabey reported that there are two cases that will go ahead of us.

4. July 2016 KCWCD Meeting AGENDA ITEM NO. 8: BLUE CASTLE HOLDINGS--NUCLEAR POWER PLANT: Mike reported that we won our court case after 3 years. The decision was unanimous by the appellant court. This is great news and our attorney said the chances for an appeal is almost none. We will have our $100,000 in 30 days. The next step will be to complete the site plan.

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