To provide a clearer and healthier future for the Four Corners region the Environmental Protection Agency must not exempt Navajo Generating Station from cleanup standards applied to similar outdated coal plants in the region
PAGE, ARIZ – With an agreement announced last week that will drastically cut down on the air pollution from Four Corners Power Plant, attention turns to another major polluter in the area, the Navajo Generating Station (NGS). The official comment period concerning the future of Navajo Generating Station (NGS) closes today and now the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must put an appropriate plan in place that will clean up NGS to improve the region’s air quality.
For decades NGS has damaged the health of local residents and visitors and severely degraded the air quality at some of our most treasured national parks and wilderness areas, including at Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde national parks. A group of clean air advocates, including Earthjustice, Grand Canyon Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club, have submitted comments urging a full and prompt cleanup plan for NGS.
“The nitrogen oxide pollution from Navajo Generating Station dirties the air and noticeably decreases visibility at Grand Canyon and other parks, making it harder to see the region’s prized landscapes,” said the National Parks Conservation Association’s Arizona Senior Program Manager Kevin Dahl. “If EPA holds NGS to the same standard as the Four Corners plant, as they should, we will see major improvement in air quality, with clearer views for park visitors and healthier air for all.”
“The federal government owns a significant portion of Navajo Generating Station, and has been responsible for polluting the region for decades,” said Noah Long with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The question now is whether this administration will hold itself accountable and take the Clean Air Act seriously, when it comes to federal investments.”
Three plans have been proposed for the cleanup of NGS. EPA’s initial proposal would significantly cut emissions of nitrogen oxides within five years—emissions that obscure the views at 11 national parks and are responsible for thousands of respiratory and other breathing related illnesses in the region each year. Alternative proposals under consideration by EPA would delay cleanup of one of the West’s biggest polluters until 2025, 2030, or indefinitely.
“Allowing NGS to avoid or delay cleanup is precisely the opposite of reasonable progress, and it is progress towards clean air that our laws require,” said Earthjustice Attorney Janette Brimmer of the alternative proposal for NGS. “EPA must require timely and enforceable reductions in haze pollutants and may not permit visibility in our national parks to remain grossly impaired by the largest source of preventable pollution in the West.”
“Arizonans and local communities have waited far too long for clean air and clear skies over one of our country’s most precious landmarks, Grand Canyon,” said Nellis Kennedy-Howard from Sierra Club. “NGS is one of the largest and oldest plants in the country and a timely cleanup is well overdue. Four Corners Plant stakeholders have demonstrated that clean solutions are possible.”
Modern pollution controls are required at more than 250 similar coal plants nationwide. Consistent application of the law would curb NGS’s emissions by 84 percent and reduce public health risks as well as visible pollution throughout the region’s national parks and wilderness areas.
Cutting NGS emissions in five years is a wise investment that will benefit local communities and bolster regional economies. NGS has visibility impacts at 11 national parks and 15 wilderness areas. For each year pollution controls are delayed, NGS’s emissions will continue to impair visibility for roughly 4 months a year at the most impacted parks. National parks in the Four Corners region attract millions of tourists and are the backbone of regional economies. Clear vistas are vital to tourism and related recreational industries. According to the National Park Service, the national parks in the Four Corners region affected by Navajo’s pollution annually generate a combined total of $1.08 billion in spending.
NGS also inflicts significant health damage to area residents. Its pollution is responsible for respiratory illness and an increase likelihood of asthma attacks. According to a newly completed study, health care costs associated with Navajo’s emissions total more than $128 million each year.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) 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, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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