Press Release Jan 14, 2020

Polluted Parks: Trump Administration Moves to Approve Weak Utah Haze Plan, Threatening Parks and Communities

Plan would allow state coal-fired power plants to continue polluting the air we breathe, increasing hazy skies in Utah’s treasured national parks. 

Salt Lake City, UT – Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 8 Administrator Greg Sopkin signed a proposed rule to approve Utah’s Regional Haze State Implementation Plan. The plan - essentially the same plan the EPA rejected twice before - rolls back emission reduction requirements for two of the state’s largest polluters, allowing the Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants to continue polluting the air we breathe, increasing hazy skies in Utah’s treasured national parks and adding to our climate crisis.

The state plan EPA proposes to approve will allow Hunter and Huntington to continue operating without Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) retrofits, a complete shift from the previous federal plan that would have reduced nearly 75 percent of the plants’ nitrogen oxide pollution, which contributes to regional haze that degrades visibility across Utah’s communities and national parks, and is the main chemical in ozone pollution that causes respiratory ailments and asthma attacks.

“Hunter and Huntington coal plants have been spewing nitrogen oxide pollution into our air for decades. And now, despite having a win-win solution for human health, the economy and our national parks in place, the Trump administration’s EPA is proposing to roll back these protections and give polluters a green light to continue down this devastating path,” said Cory MacNulty, Southwest Associate Director for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). “It’s unconscionable that the EPA, the agency charged with protecting human health and the environment, continues to turn a blind eye to polluters rather than protecting the health of people and our national parks, which are home to some of our most treasured natural, cultural and historic resources. NPCA will continue to fight to clear the air and ensure all parks, their plants and wildlife—and all who visit them—have clean air to breathe.”

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 2018, Utah’s national parks alone drew over 15 million visitors, generating nearly $1.8 billion for the state’s economy.

“Every hour Utah’s 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,” said Lindsay Beebe, Senior Organizer at the Sierra Club. “Rocky Mountain Power has a responsibility to its customers to protect our air, rather than side stepping federal regulations to bail out dirty coal when healthy, affordable renewable energy is available to us.”

“This decision by the Trump administration rolls back yet another tool we need to improve our air and our climate,” said Dr. Scott Williams, Executive Director of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah. “According to the 2019 Yale Climate Communications Climate Opinion poll, 62% of Utahns want to see strict CO2 limits on existing coal-fired power plants. We should be moving forward, not backwards.”

A 30-day public comment period will open once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register. A public hearing for the proposal is scheduled for Wednesday, February 12, 2020, in Price, Utah from 1 – 5 p.m. and from 6 – 8 p.m. mountain standard time (MST). The public is encouraged to preregister to speak at the hearing: https://utah-regional-haze-2020.eventbrite.com. Deadline to preregister is Feb 3, 2020.

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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 nearly 1.4 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.

About the Sierra Club: The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

About the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah: The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah) has been an environmental advocacy organization, watchdog, and strategic influencer in Utah since 1999. By empowering grassroots advocates, using science-based solutions, and developing common-sense policy, HEAL has a track record of tackling some of the biggest threats to Utah’s environment and public health — and succeeding. The organization focuses on clean air, energy and climate, and radioactive waste. HEAL uses well-researched legislative, regulatory, and individual responsibility approaches to create tangible change, and then utilizes grassroots action to make it happen. www.healutah.org