Green River Star -

By David Martin
Publisher 

Impact of RMP study unknown

 


How an early retirement of two units at the Jim Bridger Power Plant will impact the county’s valuation remains to be seen, but Sweetwater County Assessor Dave Divis said the valuation of the plant itself may change.

Last week, Rocky Mountain Power released an updated study which suggested its customers could save $248 million if the company sped up plans to retire four coal using power units at two plants in Southwestern Wyoming. Two of the units are at the Jim Bridger plant, while the other two are at the Noughton Plant in Lincoln County.

The retirements are anticipated to start as early as 2022, though an exact plan of how RMP will deal with the closures won’t be available until Aug. 1.

Currently, the assessor’s office list the plant’s value at $194.4 million and while the closure of two units may reduce its value, Divis is unsure of how much the valuation will decrease because the infrastructure would still be present at the plant. He said the county’s industrial valuations are assessed by a company specializing with industrial assessments from Texas.

Gov. Mark Gordon issued a statement Tuesday expressing disappointment with the study.

“I am deeply concerned to learn about this path that Rocky Mountain Power is moving down. This has significant impacts on all of Wyoming and revenue for schools and other services we all depend on. It also means a loss of jobs and changing people’s lives,” Gordon said in a press release.

“The potential for early retirements of some coal-fired power plants means we drift further away from finding solutions for reducing carbon emissions at all coal-fired power plants, those plants in Wyoming and across the globe,” Gordon stated in the release. “I will be very engaged with Rocky Mountain Power over the coming months as they move towards finalizing decisions. I will advocate for a positive path where this utility and others are part of developing solutions rather than destroying communities and delaying progress on meaningful technological advances that keeps coal as part of a diverse energy portfolio and also address climate change.”

According to Sweetwater County Historical Museum Director Brie Blazi, the area faced a decline in coal during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. The Union Pacific Railroad shifted from coal to diesel as its main source of fuel, reducing the demand for coal, closing coal towns.

She said the decline in coal caused people to panic about the larger towns eventually drying up as well.

However, Blazi said the discovery of trona in 1938 and the industry that developed around its extraction helped stabilize the local economy, becoming the most stable industry in the county.

“It stabilized people’s trust in the economy,” Blazi said. “They didn’t have to leave their towns.”

 

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