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SALT LAKE CITY — A contentious regional haze rule that would require the installation of $700 million in new pollution control equipment at two power plants in Utah is under attack by the state's congressional delegation, which wants it repealed.
Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, both R-Utah, introduced a resolution of disapproval Tuesday calling for the repeal of the regional haze rule impacting Utah.
“The great state of Utah already has proposed a perfectly safe and effective nitrogen oxide regulation regime,” Lee said. “The EPA’s costly new regulations would add hundreds of millions to the power bills of working families and all for an imperceptible change in visibility.”
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality submitted its regional haze plan to the EPA, but one portion of it was rejected. The EPA decided to implement its own federal plan to address nitrogen oxides, prompting a suit by the state of Utah and PacifiCorp.
The state agency says a decade worth of modeling in the region shows that any technological upgrades at the plants would have a negligible impact in nitrogen oxides.
The regional haze rule is an aesthetics standard designed to improve visibility at national parks, not a public health standard.
Clean air advocates say power plants produce about 40 percent of the state's nitrogen oxide emissions and insist the state and PacifiCorp should do everything possible to further reduce emissions from power plants in Emery and Carbon counties.
Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality, has said the atmospheric chemistry keeps background levels of ammonia at a point that additional reductions in nitrogen oxide will be minimal, even with new pollution control technology. Ammonia helps to form nitrogen oxide
Power rates, however, would increase by as much as 10 percent if the new upgrades are required, according to critics.
Michael Shea, senior policy associate with HEAL Utah, said the Utah delegation is wrong to pursue killing the regulation.
"After years of careful analysis, the EPA rightfully concluded that limiting coal power pollution is a necessary step toward protecting our families' health and our scenic vistas," he said. "Utah’s delegation now proposes to overturn science by advancing the same arguments the EPA already rejected.”