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Group sues EPA's 'failure' to fix regional haze

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SALT LAKE CITY — A group is asserting that environmental regulators aren't doing enough to force two Utah power plants to reduce their emissions, leading to regional pollution that jeopardizes views of scenic vistas.

A lawsuit filed late last week in Denver by WildEarth Guardians said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has failed to implement a regional haze plan for Utah given that state regulators have yet to craft a solution that passes federal scrutiny.

"It is time to stop sacrificing our clean air to polluters," said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardian's director of climate and energy programs. "Utah continues to drag its feet when it comes to safeguarding clean air, putting public health and the state's iconic parks at risk."

Since the state has not forced PacifiCorp to undertake what Nichols said are sufficient pollution controls at Hunter and Huntington power plants, it is time for the federal government to step in for a "long overdue" cleanup.

The suit, filed Friday in federal court, seeks an injunction compelling the EPA to act on a federal pollution plan within a reasonable time frame in light of current inaction.

In 2012, the EPA partially rejected Utah's plan to address regional haze in a disagreement over the type of controls the two power plants were using to address both nitrogen oxide and particulate matter pollutants.

It is this constant foot dragging that frustrates us immensely. Congress sets deadlines for a reason, so we are going to stick to our guns on this one. Whenever the state says they need more time, that is bad news for clean air.

–Jeremy Nichols

By October of last year, the Utah Air Quality Board was poised to act on revisions that came about due to the EPA's partial rejection of the plan. The updated plan goes out for a 30-day public comment period on Wednesday, with an anticipated adoption in June by board members.

Nichols said the Utah action is too little, too late.

"It is this constant foot dragging that frustrates us immensely," he said. "Congress sets deadlines for a reason, so we are going to stick to our guns on this one. Whenever the state says they need more time, that is bad news for clean air."

In a separate legal challenge to the regional haze plan, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the EPA in October on a suit brought by groups challenging the plan's sulfur dioxide provisions in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.

In that lawsuit, groups such as the Sierra Club and National Parks Conservation Association argued that the EPA inappropriately relied on inflated emissions of sulfur dioxide when it set caps on industry and other sources, ignoring reductions that should have been made with the installation of better technology.

The court rejected that assertion, reasoning the reductions required under the plan by the EPA were accompanied by sufficient analysis.

In 1999, the EPA announced a major initiative to address regional haze in 156 wilderness areas and national parks such as Grand Canyon, Bryce and Arches.

The regional haze rule calls on states to work with their federal partners to reduce pollution that causes visibility impairment. It is not a public health standard.

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Amy Joi O'Donoghue


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