Press Release Jul 10, 2014

New Agreement Means Cleaner Air for Rocky Mountain National Park

Coal-Fired Craig Plant Unit to Reduce Significant Air Pollution

ESTES PARK, CO and WASHINGTON, DC – Clean air advocates thanked Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association today for agreeing to dramatically reduce emissions from one of its oldest and dirtiest coal-fired units at the Craig power plant in Moffat County. The landmark agreement will mean cleaner air in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Mount Zirkel and Flat Tops Wilderness Areas – and healthier air for communities throughout the Mountain West.

Prior to the agreement, every year the plant released as much haze-forming nitrogen oxide pollution as 1.3 million cars.

The agreement resolves appeals brought by the National Parks Conservation Association and WildEarth Guardians against the Environmental Protection Agency. The appeals challenged a 2012 EPA decision, supported by Tri-State and the state of Colorado, to clean up only one of the two older Craig units required to install best retrofit technology to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. Conservation groups charged that EPA’s obligation under the Clean Air Act remained clear: both of the Craig units – not just one – were required to meet “regional haze” control requirements to protect America’s national parks and wilderness areas.

“Thank you, Tri-State for committing to a better future for our national parks, their visitors and neighboring communities,” said Stephanie Kodish of the National Parks Conservation Association. “It shows what can happen when citizens, state and federal governments, and utilities like Tri-State decide their efforts are better spent working out a solution rather than spending years haggling in court.”

Rocky Mountain National Park is a crown jewel of the park system. It sees over three million visitors annually, attracted by breathtaking views of the spectacular Rocky Mountain range, 60 peaks over 12,000 feet, small permanent glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, and historic and cultural treasures including ancient trails, game drives, cattle ranches, and lodges.

Emissions of nitrogen oxides contribute to high ozone that harms public health, and also to visibility-impairing smog; on the haziest days, visibility at Rocky Mountain is about half of what it should be. In addition, research has shown that nitrogen oxides from the air are also deposited in the park’s soil and water, affecting animal and plant life in the park. A reduction in nitrogen oxide pollution will contribute to improving the park’s sensitive alpine ecosystems and water quality.

According to the National Park Service, Craig’s three coal-fired units contribute to unnatural haze pollution in the park for nearly half of each year. The 1,300-megawatt plant is the State’s second largest power plant and the largest emitter of smog and haze forming nitrogen oxide emissions. The extent to which Craig’s third unit will be required to reduce emissions to address regional haze will be decided in separate, future proceedings.

Today’s agreement will become final after EPA approval.


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