PacifiCorp motion to block coal-plant pollution controls would unacceptably delay clean-up of Utah’s air
October 28, 2016
SALT LAKE CITY – The state of Utah, along with the owner of Utah’s two dirtiest coal-burning power plants and others, is attempting to delay new air quality safeguards intended to reduce air pollution that harms national parks. Any delay in implementing the rules would be a major step backward in cleaning up Utah’s polluted air, according to a coalition of health and conservations groups.
The Utah Attorney General and state Department of Environmental Quality filed a motion on today to block implementation of a June decision by the Environmental Protection Agency that requires cuts in nitrogen oxide emissions from the Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants in central Utah. That ruling, which is a core part of the agency’s plan to clean up haze pollution in eight national parks in Utah, Colorado and Arizona, was appealed in September by Rocky Mountain Power’s parent company, Warren Buffett-owned PacifiCorp.
PacifiCorp said it intends to file a similar motion today with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to block implementation of the EPA ruling. PacifiCorp and the other appellants have until midnight tonight to do so. If granted, the motions would delay the required pollution reductions until after the court rules on the PacifiCorp’s appeal, possibly by years.
HEAL Utah, the National Parks Conservation Association, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and the Sierra Club – represented by Earthjustice – say the motion could roll back decisions that will benefit Utahns and the millions of visitors a year who are drawn to treasures like Arches and Canyonlands, the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde.
The court is allowing the health and conservation groups to participate in the industry’s appeal, representing the millions of people who annually visit the eight national parks affected by pollution from the Hunter and Huntington plants. The groups are opposed to any effort to delay needed pollution reductions to reduce haze in Utah’s iconic national parks and wilderness areas.
Nitrogen oxide pollution from smokestacks is a key chemical in the formation of haze that often shrouds Utah, and the two plants are responsible for 40 percent of all NOx emissions from Utah’s electricity sector. Analyses show that installing pollution controls that are already in use on hundreds of other coal-burning plants around the country would dramatically cut NOx emissions – by 76 percent – to around 3,300 tons each year from Hunter and Huntington.
“Neither PacifiCorp nor the state of Utah should stand in the way of restoring clean air to our national parks. Unabated pollution from the Hunter and Huntington coal plants degrades our world-class national parks, which are major drivers of Utah’s robust outdoor recreation economy. Any further delay in cleaning up these plants would be bad for our parks and bad for business.”
– Cory MacNulty, Southwest senior program manager, National Parks Conservation Association.
“How can we encourage tourism and other businesses in Utah if state officials and PacifiCorp undermine the beauty of our national parks and endanger public health by insisting on inadequate pollution control of these coal-burning plants? Even a few months delay in implementing these required controls will have broad-based health consequences. Utahns deserve to have their health protected from these dirty coal-burning power plants.”
– Denni Cawley, executive director, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment
“Rocky Mountain Power loves to tout its alleged commitment to protecting the environment. But when push comes to shove, the utility would rather spend money on lawyers and fruitless lawsuits than helping our families breathe easier.”
– Michael Shea, HEAL Utah policy associate
“PacifiCorp is literally doing everything it can to stop progress on protecting some of our country’s more sacred places. Twice now, this company has taken legal action to protect its coal plants – some of the dirtiest in the country – at the expense of Utah’s public health, national parks and economy. This is incredibly disappointing and shortsighted.”
– Lindsay Beebe, Utah community organizer, Sierra Club
“Utah and PacifiCorp’s foot-dragging has delayed needed pollution reductions by nearly a decade after the legal deadline. While large polluters in nearly every other state have already been required to upgrade their technology to clear the air in nearby national parks, Utah and PacifiCorp should be ashamed to seek even more delay in pollution reductions that will benefit all Utahns.”
– Jenny Harbine, Earthjustice attorney representing the four groups above