Park, clean air and health advocates celebrate EPA decision
SALT LAKE CITY – A coalition of clean air, public health and national park advocates today celebrated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to finalize strong safeguards to protect national parks and communities across the Southwest from air pollution generated by coal burning at two of Rocky Mountain Power’s Hunter and Huntington power plants in central Utah.
The plan adopted today under the EPA’s decision calls for a 76 percent reduction in haze-causing and health-harming nitrogen oxide pollution from four units at the Hunter and Huntington facilities. These plants will now be required to reduce emissions using industry-standard technology called selective catalytic reduction that is in place at more than 250 similar facilities across the country to limit nitrogen oxide pollution.
More than 55,000 public comments on the draft proposal were delivered to the EPA Region 8 urging the agency to require strong and fair limits on coal pollution threatening national parks and communities in Utah and throughout the Southwest.
“The national parks in the Southwest and their millions of annual visitors are the winners today,” said Cory MacNulty, the Southwest senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “The EPA’s decision will result in real visibility and air quality improvements that will offer park visitors greater and more frequent opportunity to experience the full expanse of the dramatic vistas for which these national treasures are celebrated.”
“Thousands of Utahns, hundreds of businesses and countless others from across our country have sent the message loud and clear to the EPA: Our parks deserve nothing less than strong and fair protection from coal pollution. Today, those calls have been answered,” said Lindsay Beebe, organizing representative with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.
Utah and the Southwest are celebrated for iconic national parks, stunning visual scenery and world-class recreation areas. Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks in Utah are financial engines for Utah’s economy and the local recreation businesses that rely on the protection of these wild places. Pollution mapping has demonstrated the haze-causing emissions from the Hunter and Huntington plants reach beyond Utah’s borders, threatening air quality in nine national parks and wilderness areas as far south as the Grand Canyon, and east to Colorado’s Mesa Verde and Black Canyon of the Gunnison national parks, and the Flat Tops Wilderness.
The Hunter and Huntington plants are responsible for nearly 40 percent of all nitrogen oxide emissions from Utah’s electric sector, according to EPA emissions data. Monitoring studies have also shown visibility at Arches and Canyonlands national parks is diminished by human-caused haze 83 percent of the time relative to the annual average level of natural haze.
“If we value both the health of our citizens and our amazing outdoor-based economy, then we believe Utahns should celebrate EPA’s decision,” said Dr. Brian Moench of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “Because so much of Utah’s identity today revolves around our world-class landscapes and the healthy lifestyles that go with it, we applaud this forward thinking development.”
Under the Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze Rule, federal and state agencies are required to work together to cut human-caused air pollution in national parks and wilderness areas until the air is restored to its natural state. Utah is among the last states in the country to have a final plan in place to cut harmful emissions from power plants that pollute the air we breathe and obscure national park vistas. In June of 2015, the state of Utah submitted its own regional haze plan to EPA which lacked any new requirements for retrofitting the Hunter and Huntington plants with pollution controls that would cut nitrogen oxide emissions, one of the main chemical pollutants in haze.
To ensure that the state of Utah is in compliance with Regional Haze safeguards, the EPA under its authority and after hearing from citizens, businesses and organizations throughout the country, as well as the National Park Service and other agencies, chose to reject the proposal by the state of Utah that would have done nothing new to clean up pollution from the Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants in Emery County.
“We are delighted the EPA rightly chose to adopt the stronger plan,” said Matt Pacenza, HEAL Utah’s executive director. “Millions of visitors who contribute mightily to our economy come to Utah from around the world to enjoy our scenic vistas. This decision will help clean up our skies and strengthen our economy and communities.”
EPA’s decision today finalizes a plan that will to require strong pollution controls for both Hunter and Huntington. Because it will be based on Best Available Retrofit Technology requirements, the state of Utah will have five years for its implementation from the date the final rule is published.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.