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Environmental groups challenge EPA haze plans

National parks » Could regulators do more to clean up dirty coal-fired plans sullying vistas?

First Published Jan 25 2013 01:58 pm • Last Updated May 05 2013 11:33 pm

Environmental groups are lining up to attack plans for cleaning up the vistas at the West’s national parks.

WildEarth Guardians filed suit in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday over the agency’s approval of a regional haze plan that the environmental group says will mean more — not less — sulfur dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants.

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WildEarth’s Jeremy Nichols said the plan EPA approved Dec. 14 could do more to reduce sulfur pollution from PacifiCorp’s Huntington and Hunter plants with up-to-date technology and smarter operations. That could mean another one-third reduction in those emissions, he said.

"EPA’s plan defies reality, defies what is necessary to safeguard our clean air," he said, "and, worse, [it] seems to give PacifiCorp a virtual blank check to pollute."

A separate coalition of environmental groups also filed suit in the Denver appeals court claiming the regional haze plans for Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico amount to an exemption from federal law. The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the Powder River Basin Resource Council and Sierra Club are represented in that suit by Earthjustice.

"The Clean Air Act requires industry to clean up and improve visibility for our nation’s most iconic parks," said Earthjustice’s Jenny Harbine, one of the attorneys handling the case. 

"Industrial sources of pollution across the country are using technology to limit their emissions of haze-causing sulfur dioxide, and there is no excuse for not requiring the same technology on power plants that pollute Grand Canyon and Yellowstone national parks and some of our other most scenic federal lands."

The EPA’s Denver office had no comment.

Sulfur dioxide, a poisonous gas, plays a key role in particulate pollution, acid rain and haze.

Roughly 75 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions are traced to coal-fired power plants. The haze law dates to 1977, when Congress set a national goal of clean, haze-free air in national parks and wilderness areas.

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fahys@sltrib.comTwitter: @judyfutah

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