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Carbon County residents rally in support of fossil fuels

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Posted at 10:14 PM, Oct 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-24 09:01:04-04

CARBON COUNTY, Utah -- The people of Carbon County said the fossil fuel industry isn't just a field of work for them; it's a way of life and a rich part of their history.

On Thursday, thousands of people from Carbon and the surrounding counties attended a rally at the Carbon County Fairgrounds in support of fossil fuels.

"You were probably raised on that if you live here in Carbon County, fossil fuels and energy, oil, gas, all that is what Carbon and Emery Counties are all about," said David Palacios of the South Eastern Utah Energy Producers Association.

Many of these people are worried fossil fuels could become a thing of the past due to stiffer EPA regulations.

"Their regulations on coal fired power plants are way, way too impactful and are going to force the reduction of coal in this country and raise electric utility prices," said David Smaldone of Friends of Coal West.

Due to an increase in EPA regulations, the Carbon Power Plant will be shutting down next year. The plant is owned and operated by Rocky Mountain Power. They said it just wasn’t feasible to keep the plant open. More than 70 people are expected to lose their jobs, but the impact on the economy will be even greater, according to one Carbon County Commissioner.

“Our whole economy is based off the industry of coal and energy production so you’re looking at truck driving jobs, you’re looking at electrical supply companies, you’re looking at all these other functions and companies that are affected by the shutting down of one power plant," said Casey Hopes, Carbon County Commissioner.

The EPA has said they are increasing their regulations as a way to protect the environment, but opponents said they are putting theories before facts.

"You can't just say let's eliminate any little waste product at all, otherwise if you had that logic, I wouldn't be allowed to be near you, right, because we can make each other sick while breathing," said Alex Epstein, who was the keynote speaker at the rally.

One fact is for sure, lives are changing in Carbon County. Tom Smith worked as a lab technician in the plant, before realizing his position would probably no longer be available. He had to change careers.

"There are people who spent a lot of years at the plant making sure it was a good producer of energy and profitable and they had to uproot and move to other places to make sure they had secure jobs too," Smith said.

FOX 13 News reached out to the EPA regional offices in Denver but was unable to reach them for comment.