The court decision will harm human health and ruin views in national parks.
SALT LAKE CITY – Today the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a petition for review that would bring some of Utah’s worst polluting coal plants into compliance with the Clean Air Act’s visibility-protection provisions, instead enabling the Hunter and Huntington plants to continue polluting at the same damaging levels they have for more than a decade. The decision allows polluters to continue threatening air quality for Utah’s communities and muddies views at treasured national parks. The state’s stunning national parks – the Mighty 5 – stretch across southern and central Utah and contain some of the most iconic geological formations in the nation, including world-famous Zion and Arches National Parks. The conservation organizations are represented by Earthjustice and attorney John Barth.
The disappointing ruling comes after several years of long-standing, robust engagement and advocacy from community members who have submitted over 100,000 public comments, signed petitions and made appeals to the Environmental Protection Agency to request stronger pollution controls at the Hunter and Huntington plants.
In 2020, EPA approved a haze plan that does not require new emissions reductions from the plants. The plan eliminated protective standards that EPA had previously required in a 2016 Federal Implementation Plan (FIP). These 2016 standards required modern pollution reduction technology that would scrub more than 75% of toxic pollutants from the Hunter and Huntington plants. Those pollution control measures, called selective catalytic reduction or ‘SCR,’ would protect air quality and visibility at all of Utah’s beloved national parks, as well as numerous other national parks and wilderness areas beyond Utah’s borders. The 2020 plan that was approved had previously been proposed and rejected by EPA in 2016.
While the court did not require immediate installation of modern pollution controls, EPA will once again consider such a requirement for the Hunter and Huntington plants as it reviews a legally-required update for Round 2 to Utah’s plan to address the next ten years of visibility impairing pollution in the state.
“This risky decision exposes residents to ongoing health impacts and impairs park views throughout Utah’s unforgettable national parks, which these plants have done for far too long without consequence,” said Cory MacNulty, campaign director of the National Parks Conservation Association’s Southwest Region. “Residents and visitors alike deserve to appreciate the majestic views in Zion and world-famous rock formations in Bryce Canyon without air pollution affecting their health and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Though this federal ruling is a baffling move which puts profit over people, we will continue our fight against needless haze pollution affecting communities, as well as the parks they love and cherish.”
“This decision lets polluters off the hook at a time when greater emissions reductions from coal plants are desperately needed,” said Jenny Harbine, managing attorney for Earthjustice’s Northern Rockies Office. “As the EPA looks to the future, it should require the Hunter and Huntington plants to implement modern pollution controls that improve visibility in Utah’s beloved parks and air quality for the state’s most impacted communities.”
“The Tenth Circuit Court’s ruling is a blow to the community members and advocates who have tirelessly called for the EPA to hold the Hunter and Huntington coal plants accountable to clean up their act, and require pollution controls that would bring them into compliance with the national standard,” said Lindsay Beebe, senior campaign representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “This decision will embolden utilities to continue to write their own rules with complete disregard for what the public calls for, and little concern for clean air standards.”
“The medical research on air pollution is well established–there is no safe level of air pollution exposure. Even levels far below EPA’s national standards precipitate a long list of human diseases. The Tenth Circuit Court’s ruling is disappointing and the pollution from Hunter and Huntington will continue to represent a health hazard to people throughout Southern Utah and beyond,” said Jonny Vasic, executive director for Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.
“It’s disappointing to see authorities continue to neglect the critical issue of Regional Haze,” said Alex Veilleux, policy associate with the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah. “Their inaction not only harms local economies but also gives a free pass to preventable air pollution and the impacts it has on our lives in this state. HEAL Utah remains committed to collaborating with partners and communities to prioritize the health and wellness of Utah residents, despite this setback.”
About the 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 1.6 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 millions of 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 Earthjustice: Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit public interest environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy and to combat climate change.
About Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment: Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment was formed in 2007 during one of Utah’s worst inversions. The organization consists of over 400 medical professionals and another 4,000 supporting members of the public. UPHE is dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of the citizens of Utah by promoting science-based health education and interventions that result in progressive and measurable improvements to the environment and our health. UPHE can be found at www.uphe.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
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