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 Environmental 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!