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.

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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!

Resources

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

 


 

Recent Posts about Regional Haze…

NEWS: Utah’s lawsuit against feds on hold after EPA says it might reverse Obama-era order to install pollution controls at 2 coal plants

Emma Penrod
Salt Lake Tribune
9/12/2017

A federal plan that would have required Rocky Mountain Power to install new pollution controls at two coal-fired power plants is now on hold indefinitely.

On Monday, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals granted requests for a stay to prevent that order from taking effect prior to a decision in a related lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency. The court also put hearings in that case on hold indefinitely after top EPA officials said they want to reconsider the agency’s past decision to push forward with the plan.

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NEWS: Trump administration halts pollution controls at Utah plants

Brady McCombs
Washington Post
9/11/2017

SALT LAKE CITY — An appeals court granted a request Monday from President Donald Trump’s administration to halt a plan for new pollution controls at Utah’s oldest coal-fired power plants aimed at reducing haze near national parks.

The development marks a reversal for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which last year under Barack Obama unveiled the rules and defended itself in a lawsuit brought by Utah and Rocky Mountain Power.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals approved EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s request to halt that lawsuit while his agency revises a plan that called for new equipment to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions at two coal plants in Emery County.

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Press Release: Environmental Group Condemns Regional Haze Ruling

PRESS RELEASE****PRESS RELEASE****PRESS RELEASE

Monday morning, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the EPA's request for a motion to stay Utah's Regional Haze Ruling. The ruling postpones the installation of vital pollution control technologies on two of Utah’s coal plants indefinitely. 

In June of 2016, the EPA ordered Rocky Mountain Power to install pollution control technology on two of Utah's coal fired power plants, Hunter and Huntington. The technology would have helped improve the air and visibility of the surrounding National Parks near the plants. Unfortunately, the State of Utah and Rocky Mountain Power appealed the ruling and asked for a stay.  At that time, the motion was opposed by HEAL and other advocacy groups, as well as the EPA, who argued that the installation should begin immediately. 

Then last spring, the EPA reversed its decision and asked for a stay of its own ruling. Today the court agreed. 

“We of course are very disappointed” says Michael Shea, HEAL Utah’s Senior Policy Associate. “The EPA is going against its own scientific research - research which shows these plants are negatively affecting the air quality of Utah’s National Parks.” 

The ruling will give the EPA the ability to consider alternative options to its original ruling. The most troubling is the State of Utah’s preferred plan which called for no meaningful changes to the plant’s current operations. 

“What we are seeing here is the effect of the Trump Administration's hostility toward important environmental regulations. The Regional Haze Rule has been vital in helping clean up the air in National Parks throughout the west. This ruling sets a dangerous precedent and could lead to the rollback of other regulations affecting coal plants,” says Shea.

HEAL and its allies are currently evaluating their legal options and plan to continue to push for the installation of pollution control technologies for Hunter and Huntington.  

Contact 

Michael Shea 
Senior Policy Associate HEAL Utah 
801-706-1885
michael@healutah.org 

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