Press Release Sep 1, 2011

Clean Air Advocates Applaud EPA's Decision in North Dakota to Require Proven, Cost-Effective Systems for Reducing Pollution at Antiquated Coal-Fired Plants

New systems at the Leland Olds and MR Young plants will significantly lessen the nearly $500 million burden in air pollution regional health care costs each year

WASHINGTON, DC – By requiring two long-time polluters in North Dakota to install Selective Catalytic Reduction systems, which reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making it possible for the people who live and visit the areas near these plants to breathe easier and see clearer skies than they have in the more than 40 years since the Leland Olds and the Milton R. Young power plants were put into operation. In addition, EPA is requiring two other coal-fired power facilities in the state to install controls to help attain visibility goals. The EPA’s action will improve the health and well-being of the people of North Dakota and its neighboring states as well as keep the state’s economy bustling by ensuring the hundreds of thousands of people who visit incredible sites like Theodore Roosevelt National Park each year will keep coming back for pristine views and healthy air.

“EPA’s modest action simply requires two of the worst state polluters to use a well-known, cost effective technology to clean up their pollution and another two plants to do better than status quo to limit their impact on people, parks, and the economy,” said National Parks Conservation Association Clean Air Counsel Stephanie Kodish. “We support EPA in meeting their legal obligations under the Clean Air Act by requiring needed reductions in air pollution in North Dakota. EPA’s proposal will reduce a substantial amount of pollution making the views at places like Theodore Roosevelt and Badlands national parks, as well as eight other revered public lands spanning five states, clearer and safer to breath for state residents and visitors.”

“Voyageurs National Park Association applauds EPA’s decision to clean up emissions from North Dakota’s coal-fired plants,” said Voyageurs National Park Association National Committee Member Mary Marrow. “The emissions from these North Dakota plants contribute to visibility impairment in Voyageurs National Park and must be reduced to ensure that Minnesota’s only national park is protected from pollution emitted from North Dakota.”

The EPA’s action in setting these pollution reduction standards at these power plants falls under its legal requirements in the Regional Haze program, which was established under the 1977 Clean Air Act. Under the Regional Haze program, which is designed to protect visibility in national parks and wilderness areas, the state is required to improve air quality in these public spaces. But, North Dakota failed in that responsibility by dismissing standard, cost-effective technology that would reduce harmful pollution by more than 90 percent. Because of the state’s failure to protect its citizens and wild spaces and enforce the law, EPA has now had to step in with a plan that meets the requirements of the Clean Air Act.

“Enforcing reductions in air pollution will protect the health of North Dakota communities, and we support a proposal that will reduce life-threatening health problems caused by coal pollution such as asthma, mercury poisoning, heart disease, and birth defects,” said Wayde Schafer, Organizing Representative for the Sierra Club. “Thankfully, the EPA exists to enforce the safeguards needed to stop polluters from making us sick.”

In addition to cleaning the air, these upgrades will also provide substantial economic benefits to North Dakota. It will lower health care costs associated with the four plants, estimated to total nearly $1.3 billion per year through decreased respiratory and heart illnesses, which result in hospital and doctor visits, medical procedures, medications and even premature death. It will improve the air quality, environment and tourist attraction of places like Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which in 2009 had nearly 600,000 recreation visits, provided more than 500 jobs, and put $27.4 million into the local economy. The upgrade at the plants themselves would also create new jobs, both for the actual work at the plants and then for supplying the materials needed for the upgrades.

Requiring these controls falls into the norm of what states across the country have already required similar plants to do, it is simply the cost of running a modern and efficient business. Multiple facilities across the country have been required to clean up their act without significant increases to ratepayers. If a company does not want to invest in modernizing an antiquated coal-fired plant, it can make a business decision to transition its power supply to cleaner, more efficient energy options; but it may not disregard its legal obligations to meet emission reduction standards at existing facilities.


About National Parks Conservation Association
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