Paint A Climate Issue
Utah is home to what is known as “the mighty 5” national parks. These include Bryce, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks. Utahns across the state are extremely proud of their national parks, but with the great privilege of being home to these parks comes the great responsibility of keeping these national parks clean for everyone to continue to enjoy.
One lesser-known fact is that Utah is home to two of the largest national park polluters in the entire country. These plants are the Hunter and Huntington coal plants and they are currently polluting our air without consequence.
The Hunter and Huntington plants rank 2nd and 18th, respectively, as the worst sources of haze pollution in the entire country. The two sources alone emitted more than 35 million lbs of uncontrolled nitrogen oxides just last year, contributing to increased smog in parks, worsening the climate crisis, and exacerbating respiratory health issues.
Despite the known threats to our national parks and health, Utah has continually failed to submit a State Implementation Plan (SIP) to hold polluters accountable that complies with federal standards. Earlier this year, Utah drafted an updated version of their plan. When the Environmental Protection Agency reviewed it, they stated, “The EPA has concerns that Utah’s choice of control measures during this planning period does not equate to actual reductions in emissions.”
This condemnation from the EPA should have set a clear direction for the Utah Air Quality Board to vote down the draft and put forward a new plan, but instead,they went ahead with their flawed plan and submitted it to the EPA.
Meanwhile, Utahns have been clear in their calls for more robust pollution controls, turning out in droves to share comments in public hearings, and participating in public comment periods in support of taking action. More than 650 public comments were sent to the Utah Department of Air Quality to urge greater protections for Utah’s parks.
Now that the State Implementation Plan has been submitted to the EPA, the EPA will review it and decide whether to accept or reject Utah’s proposal. The EPA can also use its authority under the Clean Air Act to lock in dates to retire these big polluters. While it may seem like we currently are in a waiting period, the next stage of the process will soon be here. If you care about protecting air quality in our spectacular National Parks, or are concerned about climate change or respiratory health here in Utah, we encourage you to sign up for our Regional Haze list to receive updates on this issue + ways to take action.