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Utah coal-fired power plant fined for excess pollution

Published July 2, 2013 10:50 am

EPA and Deseret Power settle over emissions from Bonanza facility on Utah-Colorado line.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A crackdown on polluted emissions from the Bonanza power plant near the Utah-Colorado border has resulted in a settlement between federal regulators and Utah-based Deseret Generation & Transmission Co-operative.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the settlement Tuesday, and now South Jordan-based Deseret Power will be required to pay $35,000 in penalties, install new controls during startup and shutdown, and cover the cost of replacing at least five fleet vehicles with natural gas models. The EPA — and not the Utah Department of Environmental Quality — regulates the plant because it is on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation.

"This settlement secures Deseret's commitment to significantly reduce emissions of particulate pollution and visible emissions from the Bonanza plant during startup and shutdown events and improve visibility in the surrounding area," said Mike Gaydosh, enforcement director at EPA in Denver. "Additionally, the conversion of the company's vehicles to natural gas will benefit local air quality by significantly reducing emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulates."

Federal regulators say fine soot bypassed Bonanza's pollution control device during startup and shutdown.

By limiting the particulate pollution from the coal-fired plant, EPA hopes to protect the health of surrounding communities. The fine soot not only affects the people who breathe it — especially the very old, the very young and people with heart and lung trouble — but it also plays an important role in creating haze that plagues remote national parks and wilderness areas.

The Bonanza plant landed in the national spotlight a few years ago, when the EPA granted permission for a new unit without addressing greenhouse gases from the plant and the case eventually led to a Supreme Court decision upholding the federal government's authority to count the emissions blamed for climate change.

And last year the tribe and the environmental group, WildEarth Guardians, threatened to sue over alleged emission violations, although that suit has yet to materialize.

"In addition to protecting the well-being and health of residents of nearby communities, the national parks of the Southwest including Arches and Canyonlands will benefit from pollutant reductions that will result from today's settlement," said David Nimkin of the National Parks Conservation Service.

"It is absurd that emissions from plant startup and shutdown have escaped control, impermissibly sullying our air and we are pleased that these violations will end with this agreement," Nimkin said.

fahys@sltrib.com

Twitter: @judyfutah