Press Release Jun 24, 2019

Utah Air Quality Board Approves Regional Haze Plan, Paving the Way for More Air Pollution in National Parks and Local Communities

It is unacceptable that Utah is again failing to protect our parks, local economies and visitors, especially at a time when the state so desperately needs bold leadership to combat air pollution problems.

Salt Lake City, UT - Today, the Utah Air Quality Board voted to approve a proposed amendment to the state’s Regional Haze Plan that will allow coal-fired power plants to continue polluting the air we breathe, increasing hazy skies and unhealthy air days in Utah’s treasured national parks and adding to our climate crisis. Despite high levels of uncontrolled pollution coming from Rocky Mountain Power’s Utah coal plants, the state’s proposed plan will continue to let these polluters dodge responsibility for harming the public’s health, our national parks and their wildlife. This was the third iteration of a Regional Haze State Implementation Plan (SIP) the Utah Air Quality Board has considered, all of which were previously rejected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“It is unacceptable that Utah is again failing to protect our parks, local economies and visitors, especially at a time when the state so desperately needs bold leadership to combat air pollution problems. Without strong safeguards protecting the air we all breathe, we cannot keep these places and local economies strong, let alone keep people healthy,” said Ernie Atencio, Southwest regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). “Millions of visitors from around the world travel to Utah’s national parks and wilderness areas each year only to see our park’s tremendous landscapes obscured by haze, and breathe air tainted by preventable pollution. And sadly, for park visitors across the country, this is the new normal as nearly all of America’s national parks are suffering significantly from human-caused air pollution.”

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. In 2017, Utah’s national parks alone drew over 15 million visitors, generating nearly $1.6 billion for the state’s economy. But every hour Utah’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants, Hunter and Huntington, dump thousands of pounds of haze-producing nitrogen oxide pollution into the air, on the doorstep of some of our most precious landscapes. That pollution then spreads even further, to Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde National Parks, creating haze that muddies stunning views and dark night skies, makes it harder to breathe, stresses sensitive species and habitats, and drives climate change.

According to EPA emissions data these plants are responsible for nearly 40 percent of all nitrogen oxide emissions from Utah’s electric sector. This plan will allow Hunter and Huntington to continue operating without Selective Catalytic Retrofits (SCR), a federal requirement that reduces regional haze from coal-fired power plants, which degrades visibility across Utah and in the state’s national parks.

“It’s disappointing that the state continues to let Rocky Mountain Power off the hook. Despite flawed modeling and inaccurate data, the state will continue to allow the Hunter and Huntington coal plants to spew preventable pollution. And it’s a shame that the Air Quality Board wouldn’t take the necessary step to reject the proposed plan and protect our air and national parks that hold some of our country’s most treasured natural, cultural and historic resources. NPCA will continue to fight to clear the air and ensure these parks, their plants and wildlife—and all who visit them—have the clean air and safe climate they need and deserve,” added Atencio.

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About National Parks Conservation Association: For 100 years, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org/100.