Salt Lake City, UT – Today the Utah Division of Air Quality and the Air Quality Board heard from clean air advocates calling for strengthened pollution reduction measures to restore clean skies at Utah’s Big Five national parks – Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands. These areas are in the path of polluting facilities that degrade local and regional air quality, impact public health, blur scenic views and exacerbate the climate crisis.
In Utah, PacifiCorp’s Hunter and Huntington coal fired power plants are among the top 20 worst park polluters in the nation, belching thousands of tons of emissions annually. Despite many opportunities for cost-effective pollution controls, the Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ) has yet again concluded that no new reductions in pollution are warranted from the Hunter and Huntington plants or any other haze-polluting facilities in the state.
During the public hearing, advocates came forward to, again, share their concerns about haze pollution harming public health, scenic views, park visitors, and local communities. They encouraged the DAQ to improve the state’s haze plan and if unchanged, the advocates requested the Air Quality Board disapprove the plan in the July board meeting. The Air Quality Board will have the option to send the plan back to state regulators for improvements, or pass the plan on to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for review.
In initial comments, EPA has already signaled that the Utah plan fails to address the state’s egregious polluters that are long overdue for controls, stating: “We encourage Utah to do all it can during this planning period to make reasonable progress through quantifiable reductions in emitted pollutants.” Likewise, the National Park Service has offered comments during its consultation with the state that elaborate on the draft’s flaws and encourage Utah to address its worst polluters.
“Moab is the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands, and outdoor recreation opportunities enjoyed by over three million visitors per year,” said Kalen Jones, Moab City Council Member. “We sometimes have unparalleled desert vistas which are a national treasure. One can only see as far as the air is clear, and haze from air pollution has visibly worsened during my 32 years here. Our City’s economic and public health depend on clean air and clear skies. We hope the state agencies will act on this opportunity to impose standards that protect our and all Utahns’ air.”
“Pollution from Utah’s coal plants and industrial facilities is unacceptably high and causes hazy skies, ruins views and harms people’s health across our state and far beyond,” said Cory MacNulty, Southwest Associate Director for National Parks Conservation Association. “A vast majority of the time people go to visit parks, their views through Delicate Arch at Arches or from Island in the Sky viewpoint in Canyonlands National Parks are muddied by pollution. Now, Utah is poised yet again to squander their once in a decade opportunity to cut haze pollution from some of the worst national park polluting facilities in the country. It’s time to get this right and for Utah to protect people and parks – not polluters.”
“For decades, air pollution from PacifiCorp’s Hunter and Huntington coal fired gas plants have put communities, landscapes, and the environment at risk, blurring the breathtaking views that make Utah unique,” said Lindsay Beebe, Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club. “Clean air protections are long overdue. Utah needs a plan that will improve visibility in national parks, cut fossil fuel emissions, and hold the coal industry accountable.”
“Utahns want swift air quality action. O2 Utah recently conducted a series of focus groups throughout the state, and we learned that Utah voters trust and actually prefer state regulators to address air quality issues, especially compared to the federal government,” said Eliza Cowie, Policy Director for o2 Utah. “We urge the Division of Air Quality and the Air Quality Board to act on the will of Utahns and step up to proactively set pollution reduction standards that will hold polluters accountable and make an outsized impact for the health of our residents.”
“Utah needs a real plan that will protect the health of our residents. The medical research on air pollution is well established, even at levels far below the EPA’s national standards, precipitating a long list of human diseases, acceleration of the aging process and premature death,” said Jonny Vasic, Executive Director for Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “The pollution from Hunter and Huntington not only creates regional haze but the burning of the coal represents a health hazard to people throughout Southern Utah and beyond.”
“It’s time for Utah to take measurable action to hold two of Utah’s biggest contributors to Regional Haze accountable,” said Alex Veilleux, Policy associate for The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah. “We are now almost two decades into regional haze implementation with no action and must act swiftly to protect our national parks for future generations. This is not negotiable.”
The Division of Air Quality is accepting comments on its plan through May 31, 2022.
About National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA)
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
About Moab City Council
The Moab City Council is a five-member, non-partisan, governing body – elected at-large by the citizens of Moab. Members serve four-year terms. The Mayor is elected separately and acts as the chairperson for City Council meetings.
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.
About O2 Utah
O2 Utah is a 501(c)(4) environmental nonprofit whose mission is to clean our state’s air through election involvement, policy development and community education and advocacy. Our team of campaigning experts gets involved in key competitive races throughout the state, partnering with candidates who prioritize issues focused on cleaning up our air quality, transportation, and energy sector. At the same time, we work with legislators to craft bold, innovative policies and facilitate grassroots advocacy efforts. To learn more and get involved, visit www.o2utah.org.
About Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment was formed in 2007 during one of Utah’s worst inversions. The organization consists of approximately 400 medical professionals within Utah, and another 4,000 supporting members of the public. UPHE is dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of the citizens of Utah by promoting science-based health education and interventions that result in progressive and measurable improvements to the environment and our health. UPHE can be found at www.uphe.org.
About HEAL Utah
The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah) has been an environmental advocacy organization, watchdog, and strategic influencer in Utah since 1999. By empowering grassroots advocates, using science-based solutions, and developing common-sense policy, HEAL has a track record of tackling some of the biggest threats to Utah’s environment and public health – and succeeding. The organization focuses on clean air, energy and climate, and radioactive waste. HEAL uses well-researched legislative, regulatory, and individual responsibility approaches to create tangible change and then utilizes grassroots action to make it happen. www.healutah.org