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!
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.
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!
Recent Posts about Regional Haze…
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.
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!
Don't Forget to also
Urge Gov. Herbert to VETO HB65
Call 801-538-100 and ask Gov Herbert to veto this bad air quality bill!
On days like this, the old adage "some things are too good to be true" seems too fitting. Last June, HEAL and our allies had a big win in our fight to clean up Utah's two coal fired power plants, Hunter and Huntington. Help keep that victory alive!
With your help, HEAL directed thousands of comments and packed hearing after hearing with people all asking the EPA the same thing - To force Rocky Mountain Power to install important pollution controls on their dirty coal plants.
And it worked! The EPA sided with our arguments. Your letters and comments helped win the day. Hunter and Huntington were finally going to have to install controls that almost every other coal plant in the west already has.
It was a great day and we shared it with you in a celebratory email soon after. (We don't get to do too many of those!) Things were looking pretty great until the November election and we feared it was only a matter of time before there was an attempt to overturn the rule.
Well those fears have unfortunately been realized. On Tuesday, Utah's own "i-phones and health care" Representative Jason Chaffetz and Senator Mike Lee introduced legislation which would overturn the EPA's ruling. Representative Chaffetz tried to do it quietly hoping no one would notice. Luckily nothing gets past your local clean air and energy advocated and HEAL quickly alerted the media as to what was happening. You can read more about it in this Deseret News Article byclicking here.
Now to that point, we need your help! Let the Representative and Senator know that you support cleaning up these power plants and to stop this legislation. Click here to take action now! There you can learn more about the EPA's ruling and the legislation being run to overturn it. Then you can send a lette to Utah's congressional delegation.
There are some dirty polluted clouds on the horizon but with your help we can beat them back!
Your EPA Champion,
Michael O'Reagan Shea