Court approves motion of UPHE and other groups to intervene in Utah and RMP appeal

Toxic Utah


Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY – The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is allowing a group of conservation and public health groups to participate in legal proceedings opposing attempts by Utah officials and the state’s biggest utility to roll back recent progress on cleaning up Utah’s air.

HEAL Utah, the National Parks Conservation Association, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and the Sierra Club had asked the court to allow them to intervene in the appeal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ruling that requires Rocky Mountain Power to cut nitrogen emissions from its Hunter and Huntington power plants in central Utah. The groups petitioned the court to be included in the proceedings to keep Utah from sliding backward on cleaning up air pollution in iconic national parks including Canyonlands and Arches, saying the millions of people who visit them each year needed a voice in the proceedings.

The court approved their motion today.

In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruled that Rocky Mountain Power has to cut emissions of nitrogen from Hunter and Huntington. Nitrogen chemicals  are large contributors to shrouds of haze that often hang over five national parks in Utah, and cutting emissions will require Rocky Mountain Power to install industry-standard technology on the plant’s smokestacks. The utility’s parent company, Warren Buffett-owned PacifiCorp, along with the state of Utah and smaller utilities, appealed that decision earlier this month.

The Hunter and Huntington plants spew almost 1.5 tons of nitrogen oxide pollution combined every hour of every day they’re running – around 13,000 tons a year for the units that EPA says must have upgrades installed. The plants are responsible for 40 percent of all nitrogen oxide emissions from Utah’s electricity sector. Analyses show that installing the pollution controls would dramatically cut emissions – by 76 percent – to around 3,300 tons each year from the four units.

“For the state of Utah and Rocky Mountain Power to join forces in an attempt to delay the clean up of Utah’s coal-burning power plants is something that every Utah citizen should find deeply disturbing. Our state government is supported by our taxes and their top priority should be to protect the health and well-being of Utahns, not Rocky Mountain Power’s profits. Cleaning up these old coal power plants is essential to protecting public health in Utah and throughout the West.”

– Dr. Brian Moench, president, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment

“EPA made the right decision in June to cut nitrogen oxide pollution from these facilities by 76 percent, ensuring that more people will experience the extraordinary beauty of our treasured national parks and breathe healthier air. We believe PacifiCorp and the state of Utah must fulfill, without further delay, their responsibility under the Clean Air Act to restore clean air to our national parks.”

– Cory MacNulty, Southwest senior program manager, National Parks Conservation Association. 

“PacifiCorp’s decision to challenge the EPA’s plan to reduce haze pollution is out-of-touch with the needs and values of their customers, who want clean, healthy air in their national parks. It’s unfair to Utahns across our state and families and businesses throughout the region to delay the inevitable and hold up critical clean air safeguards for parks like the Grand Canyon, Arches and Zion. The delay caused by PacifiCorp’s lawsuit guarantees that coal pollution will continue to damage these sacred places, possibly for years to come.”

– Gloria Smith, managing attorney, Sierra Club Environmental Law Program.

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