PRESS RELEASE: 55,000+ Comments Support Strong National Park Protections from Utah Coal Pollution

Contact: Shane Levy, Sierra Club, 201-679-9507, shane.levy@sierraclub.org Cory MacNulty, NPCA, 801-834-3125, cmacnulty@npca.org

Matt Pacenza, HEAL Utah, 801-864-0264, matt@healutah.org

55,000+ Comments Support Strong National Park Protections from Utah Coal Pollution  Comment Period Closes on Regional Haze Proposal; EPA Must Decide By June 1

SALT LAKE CITY – A coalition of clean air, outdoors and park advocates today announced that more than 55,000 comments have been delivered to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 8 urging the agency to require strong and fair limits on coal pollution threatening national parks and communities in Utah and throughout the Southwest.

In December, the EPA released a draft plan with two options for dealing with nitrogen oxide pollution emitted by two of Utah’s oldest and dirtiest coal-burning power plants. The first option, which advocates have dubbed the “Clean Parks Plan,” calls for a 76% reduction in haze-causing nitrogen oxide pollution from four units at Rocky Mountain Power’s Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants using industry-standard pollution controls.

The other option was put forth by the state of Utah and requires no additional pollution controls. This “business as usual” approach gives Rocky Mountain Power credit for its closure of the much smaller Carbon coal plant, which is now being dismantled, but it would allow the Hunter and Huntington plants to continue polluting at current levels.

The 55,385 signatures in support of the “Clean Parks Plan” comes as the 60-day public comment period on the EPA’s proposal closed late yesterday. The EPA must select one of the proposals and have a final plan in place by June 1, 2016.

“Utah’s parks are a vital part of our economy, our heritage, and our way of life here in the Southwest,” said Lindsay Beebe, Organizing Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “That’s why military veterans, professional skiers, outdoor industry businesses and brands, and more than 55,000 people across the country have demanded that the EPA protect clean air for our parks and our region. Now, with a decision looming, it’s time for the EPA to stand up for Utah families and communities by guaranteeing strong and fair protections from coal pollution.”

“The outdoor industry in Utah and throughout the Southwest plays a vital role in the region’s economy. Yet for far too long, the national parks and wilderness that are at the core of this important industry have been threatened by coal pollution,” said Chris Steinkamp, Executive Director of Protect Our Winters (POW). “We applaud the EPA for offering a proposal that would drastically improve air quality acrossColorado and the West, and urge them to implement that plan instead of Utah’s inadequate plan.”

Utah and the Southwest are celebrated for iconic national parks, stunning visual scenery, and world-class recreation areas. Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks in Utah are financial engines for Utah’s economy and the local recreation businesses that rely on the protection of these wild places.  Pollution mapping has demonstrated the haze-causing emissions from Rocky Mountain Power’s Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants reach beyond Utah’s borders, threatening air quality as far south as the Grand Canyon, and east to Colorado’s Mesa Verde and Black Canyon of the Gunnison national parks, and the Flat Tops Wilderness.

“Tens of thousands of people who love our national parks have spoken in favor of dramatically cutting haze-causing pollution from the Hunter and Huntington coal plants that affects the air in nearby Canyonlands and Arches national parks, as well as in six other iconic national parks in the southwest,” said Cory MacNulty, Southwest Senior Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.  “It is EPA’s duty to protect these lands by reducing the pollution that harms them. The agency must ensure Utah’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants limit their share of park polluting emissions. To do otherwise would go against the agency’s own precedent to the detriment of these national parks and their visitors.”

Citing the enormous role that Colorado’s national parks play in the state’s $13.2 billion outdoor recreation economy, on Monday, a coalition of more than 100 Colorado-based businesses, brands, and tourism leaders sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 8 Administrator Shaun McGrath, urging protection for national parks and communities in Colorado and across the West from haze-causing coal pollution emitted by the Hunter and Huntington plants. The coalition called on the EPA to require Rocky Mountain Power’s Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants in Utah to reduce dangerous coal pollution by installing modern, cost effective, and achievable controls. A copy of that letter can be found here.

“Tens of thousands of Utahns have weighed in: They want the EPA to limit coal power pollution to clear our skies, protect our families and strengthen our economy,” says Matt Pacenza, HEAL Utah’s executive director.