Press Release Sep 1, 2016

New Agreement Means Cleaner Air for Rocky Mountain National Park and People in the Southwest

Coal-Fired Power Plants to Reduce Substantial Pollution by 2022, 2025

BACKGROUND: National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and the owners of the Yampa Project at Craig Station, the state of Colorado, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Wild Earth Guardians have reached an agreement to address nitrogen oxide emissions produced by coal-fired units in Craig and Nucla, Colorado. These emissions contribute to haze pollution in the region, impacting the air quality at a dozen iconic “Class I” national parks and wilderness areas in Colorado and Utah. There are 156 designated Class I areas required under the Clean Air Act to have the most pristine air quality in the country. As a result of today’s agreement, there will be less climate pollution and places including Rocky Mountain, Canyonlands, Arches and landscapes across the Southwest will realize cleaner air, as will their visitors and neighboring communities.

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis calls climate change the biggest challenge facing our national parks in their second century. By closing Nucla Station and Craig Station Unit 1 coal-fired power plant units, there will be reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as well as health-harming, haze-causing pollution. Emissions of nitrogen oxides for example, contribute to high ozone. This harms public health and adds to visibility-impairing smog. In addition, research has shown that nitrogen oxides from the air are deposited in park soil and water, affecting animal and plant life. Thus, this agreement will result in improving Rocky Mountain National Park’s sensitive alpine ecosystems, water quality and the visitor experience at parks across the Southwest.

As a result of this agreement, Tri-State will (1) cap emissions at both Craig and Nucla plants by 2020 (2) retire Craig unit 1 by December 2025 or transition the unit to gas by 2023 and (3) retire the Nucla plant by December 2022. The coal plant closures will result in important reductions of carbon dioxide emissions and will help Colorado meet the objectives of its recently announced Colorado Climate Plan.

Statement by Stephanie Kodish, Senior Director and Counsel for NPCA’s Clean Air Program

“National parks are located in some of the places that are most vulnerable to climate change and pollution, from the deserts of the Southwest to the glaciers of the Northern Rockies. We must therefore do all we can to ensure clean air and a healthy climate for parks, wildlife and the more than 300 million people that visit these treasured places each year.

“Under this historic agreement up to 4.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, will be eliminated by 2025. This is like removing 1 million cars from the road each year. The closure of Tri-State’s coal plants will mean fewer emissions contributing to climate change and healthier, clearer air for people and national parks including Rocky Mountain.

“We commend Tri-State for committing to a better future for neighboring communities, our national parks and their visitors.”


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

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