Regional Haze

One of the key avenues for pushing to clean up our state’s coal power fleet is via a little-known but critical piece of the Clean Air Act called the “Regional Haze ” rule. Allow us to explain!

The Issue

Beginning in 1990, when then-President George H.W. Bush signed the Clean Air Act amendments, the Enviornmental Protection Agency began to rein in the tiny but dangerous airborne pollution particles from man made sources. Coming from motor vehicles, electric utilities and industrial burning and manufacturing operations, this haze-inducing pollution is both the cause of reduced visibility in our national parks and also the instigator of serious health problems such as respiratory illness, decreased lung function and even premature death.

The EPA’s “Regional Haze” rule is designed to significantly reduce this pollution.

Not only will the EPA’s rule clean up the views around the West, including our beloved national parks, and benefit our health by limiting particulate pollution, but the rules are supported by a majority of Utahns.


Resistance To Change

While cleaning up our air and improving our health is overwhelmingly supported by Utahns, the new rule is being fought tooth and nail by Rocky Mountain Power. The utility owns some of the dirtiest coal power plants in the nation but is actively resisting the EPA’s efforts via the Clean Air Act to clean those up.

Rocky Mountain Power has fought to block the EPA from making them install cutting-edge pollution controls — called “selective catalytic reduction.” SCR controls are proven to work and are already in place at more than 200 coal plants throughout the country.

If SCR becomes widely used throughout the West, it promises to go a long way toward cleaning up our scenic views and, most important, removing the pollutants sickening our families and contributing to the rising cost of health care.

The Regional Haze rule requires states to come up with their own plans to protect these views. The EPA has approved most states’ proposals to significantly limit the landscape-shrouding pollution coming from nearby coal plants. For Utah, unfortunately, this is not the case.

Looking Forward

Utah’s proposed Regional Haze rules were rejected by the EPA for not doing enough to cut the smog that, on some of the worst days, obscures the views in our local national parks by 40 to 80 miles.

As we head into 2015, big decisions are looming as to whether Utah will order Rocky Mountain Power’s plants to clean up. What will the EPA do? Stay tuned!


EPA’s Final Action on Utah’s Regional Haze SIP (PDF)



Recent Posts about Regional Haze…

NEWS: Court approves delay in Utah haze case

Sean Reilly
E&E News reporter
Published: Wednesday, May 31, 2017

At U.S. EPA's request, a federal appellate court has pushed back the briefing schedule in litigation over the agency's haze reduction plan for Utah.

The agency had sought the blanket 60-day extension last week, partly on the grounds that it is pursuing an administrative settlement to the legal challenges brought by the state of Utah and PacifiCorp. In an unsigned order yesterday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the request, noting that none of the parties to the litigation had objected.

The extension means that EPA's next brief, which had been due Friday, must now be filed by Aug. 1, with final briefs in the case set for submission by Nov. 13. In asking for the delay, an EPA attorney had also noted that vacancies in the agency's political leadership include positions with "direct responsibility" for the case (E&E News PM, May 24).

The regional haze reduction program, dating back to 1999 in its current form, aims to restore pristine views to 156 national parks and wilderness areas by 2064. The agency's plan for Utah, which partially overrode the state's proposal, requires Oregon-based PacifiCorp to eventually slash emissions of nitrogen oxides at two older coal-fired power plants in the central part of the state by almost 10,000 tons per year.


To read the full article, click here


NEWS: Former EPA leader defends actions on Utah haze, ozone

The Salt Lake Tribune
May 19 2017 07:00AM

A plan to require new pollution controls at coal-fired power plants in Utah was among the Environmental Protection Agency's greatest accomplishments under the Obama administration, according to one of the agency's former leaders.

Shaun McGrath, former EPA Region 8 administrator, oversaw the agency's operations in Utah, the Dakotas, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming from 2013-2016. As is typical for the agency's regional officials, the political appointee left his position when President Donald Trump assumed office.

Trump has since appointed ex-Oklahoma Attorney General and longtime EPA critic Scott Pruitt to head the agency, but still has not filled McGrath's Region 8 position.

On Thursday, McGrath — now taking a break from his career to enjoy some globe trotting — met with environmental advocates in Salt Lake City to discuss the highlights of his tenure at the EPA, and his concerns about the agency's current direction. He also granted The Salt Lake Tribune an interview.

McGrath praised state environmental regulators and defended some of the controversial decisions to come out of the EPA in recent years — including the regional haze ruling that required new pollution systems at Rocky Mountain Power's Hunter and Huntington power plants in central Utah.

"In the past, relationships between the EPA and the states have been very strained," McGrath said in the wide-ranging interview.


Read the full article here.


Episode #77: Joan Card, Former Senior Policy Advisor, EPA Region 8

NOTE: Because Joan joined Matt via SKYPE, the audio quality at the beginning is less than idea. Because it's such a good interview and the sound balances out after some time, we're still posting it. We hope you enjoy!

This week, Joan speaks with Matt about her time as the Senior Policy Advisor for EPA Region 8 under former President Obama from 2013-2016. Joan worked closely with Shaun McGrath, former Region 8 Administrator, who will be joining HEAL as the keynote speaker for our 2017 Spring Breakfast in May. During her tenure at the EPA, Joan was responsible for ensuring Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act were carried out in Region 8, contributed to the development of the Clean Power Plan and Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and worked closely with tribal governments on issues surrounding oil and gas development. Join us as she and Matt discuss the role of the EPA in ensuring clean air and a healthy environment along the Wasatch Front, the sea change of the current Administration and how this could affect the EPA, and the ways the EPA is looking to the future. She concludes with a taste of what Shaun will bring to the Spring Breakfast - get your tickets here! Be sure to listen!



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