Press Release Oct 1, 2014

Utah: ZERO pollution cuts for Rocky Mountain Power coal plants

Clean air and park advocates blast proposal as worst in region, State is out of touch with Utahns' priorities on air quality, clean energy, protecting parks and tourism

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – The state of Utah this afternoon will announce a do-nothing plan for smokestack pollution at two 1970s-era coal-fired power plants in Emery County owned by PacifiCorp/Rocky Mountain Power, clean air and national park advocates charged today. This is despite the thousands of tons of smog-producing nitrogen oxide pollution the plants emit every year, damaging air quality in communities and parks across the state, and beyond.

The state will present its plan to the Air Quality Board today during its monthly meeting, which begins at 1:30 pm in the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Building Board Room at 195 North 1950 West, Salt Lake City. A critic of the plan will also address the board.

Utah is one of the last states in the country to comply with a Clean Air Act rule requiring states to develop plans to cut air pollution that impacts iconic national park and wildernesses’ skies. The 895-megawatt Huntington coal plant and the 1,320-megawatt Hunter coal plant, both located outside of Price, emit a combined 17,000 tons of nitrogen oxide pollution every year.

Though Utah was obligated to present a plan to clean them up, the state said neither has to install the kind of modern pollution controls being required for aging coal power plants in Colorado, Arizona and on the Navajo Nation.

“Rocky Mountain Power’s coal plant smokestacks may not be right at our doorstep in Salt Lake City, but their air pollution affects the entire region,” said Christopher Thomas, Executive Director of HEAL Utah. “Utahns want and expect cleaner air and more clean energy. It’s unacceptable to ignore Utah’s coal pollution problem while other states are moving forward and requiring deep pollution cuts.”

Data from the Utah DEQ shows that the industry-standard pollution control would reduce nitrogen oxide pollution from Hunter and Huntington by 80 percent, from 17,000 tons to just 3,300 tons each year. Over 250 similar coal plants use this “selective catalytic reduction” control. This list will soon expand to include aging facilities like Four Corners Power Plant on Navajo Nation, Cholla Power Plant in Arizona and Hayden Station in Colorado. Rather than opting for similar 80-90 percent pollution reductions, Utah is proposing the status quo, with no additional nitrogen pollution reduction at Huntington and Hunter.

Nitrogen oxides from Huntington and Hunter combine with other compounds in the air to form fine particle pollution and also ozone, both serious health threats, and contribute to smog and haze at Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Mesa Verde, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and the Grand Canyon.

“This proposed plan is very bad news for Utah’s national parks, its people and its economy. Travel and tourism is Utah’s second largest economic engine and a great deal of what makes that engine run are its national parks, monuments, recreation areas and the gateway communities that support and benefit from them,” said Cory MacNulty, Southwest Senior Program Manager of NPCA. “With an estimated nine million visitors traveling to Utah’s national parks each year, and approximately $12 billion being spent in Utah on outdoor recreation annually, the state can ill afford to play Russian roulette when it comes to air quality.”

“There’s a clear solution here,” said Amy Hojnowski, Beyond Coal Campaign representative, Sierra Club. “Rather than continuing to pollute our air and mar views of Utah’s iconic parks, Rocky Mountain Power should fulfill its obligation to clean up its coal plants and start investing in Utah’s abundant solar energy industry.”

”The fine particle pollution formed by emissions from the Huntington and Hunter power plants can get deep into our lungs,” said Tim Wagner, Executive Director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “Nitrogen oxides can trigger asthma attacks, missed work days and even death. The state should do better to help Utahns breathe easier.”

Utah DEQ anticipates a 30-day written comment period beginning November 1. Should the state neglect our lungs and skies, advancing the plan as is come January 2015, the public’s final appeal will need to be directed towards EPA to demand the air quality improvements the state failed to deliver.

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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.