Clean Air Advocates Share Renewed Concerns about Utah’s Plan to Reduce Haze Pollution

Clean air advocates reject Utah’s regional haze plan, call for immediate change to protect national parks and public health.

Salt Lake City, UT – Today the Utah Division of Air Quality and the Air Quality Board heard from clean air advocates calling for strengthened pollution reduction measures to restore clean skies at Utah’s Big Five national parks – Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands. These areas are in the path of polluting facilities that degrade local and regional air quality, impact public health, blur scenic views and exacerbate the climate crisis.

In Utah, PacifiCorp’s Hunter and Huntington coal fired power plants are among the top 20 worst park polluters in the nation, belching thousands of tons of emissions annually. Despite many opportunities for cost-effective pollution controls, the Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ) has yet again concluded that no new reductions in pollution are warranted from the Hunter and Huntington plants or any other haze-polluting facilities in the state.

During the public hearing, advocates came forward to, again, share their concerns about haze pollution harming public health, scenic views, park visitors, and local communities. They encouraged the DAQ to improve the state’s haze plan and if unchanged, the advocates requested the Air Quality Board disapprove the plan in the July board meeting. The Air Quality

Board will have the option to send the plan back to state regulators for improvements, or pass the plan on to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for review.

In initial comments, EPA has already signaled that the Utah plan fails to address the state’s egregious polluters that are long overdue for controls, stating: “We encourage Utah to do all it can during this planning period to make reasonable progress through quantifiable reductions in emitted pollutants.” Likewise, the National Park Service has offered comments during its consultation with the state that elaborate on the draft’s flaws and encourage Utah to address its worst polluters.

“Moab is the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands, and outdoor recreation opportunities enjoyed by over three million visitors per year,” said Kalen Jones, Moab City Council Member. “We sometimes have unparalleled desert vistas which are a national treasure. One can only see as far as the air is clear, and haze from air pollution has visibly worsened during my 32 years here. Our City’s economic and public health depend on clean air and clear skies. We hope the state agencies will act on this opportunity to impose standards that protect our and all Utahns’ air.”

“Pollution from Utah’s coal plants and industrial facilities is unacceptably high and causes hazy skies, ruins views and harms people’s health across our state and far beyond,” said Cory MacNulty, Southwest Associate Director for National Parks Conservation Association. “A vast majority of the time people go to visit parks, their views through Delicate Arch at Arches or from Island in the Sky viewpoint in Canyonlands National Parks are muddied by pollution. Now, Utah is poised yet again to squander their once in a decade opportunity to cut haze pollution from some of the worst national park polluting facilities in the country. It’s time to get this right and for Utah to protect people and parks – not polluters.”

“For decades, air pollution from PacifiCorp’s Hunter and Huntington coal fired gas plants have put communities, landscapes, and the environment at risk, blurring the breathtaking views that make Utah unique,” said Lindsay Beebe, Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club. “Clean air protections are long overdue. Utah needs a plan that will improve visibility in national parks, cut fossil fuel emissions, and hold the coal industry accountable.”

Utahns want swift air quality action. O2 Utah recently conducted a series of focus groups throughout the state, and we learned that Utah voters trust and actually prefer state regulators to address air quality issues, especially compared to the federal government,” said Eliza Cowie, Policy Director for o2 Utah. “We urge the Division of Air Quality and the Air Quality Board to act on the will of Utahns and step up to proactively set pollution reduction standards that will hold polluters accountable and make an outsized impact for the health of our residents.”

“Utah needs a real plan that will protect the health of our residents. The medical research on air pollution is well established, even at levels far below the EPA’s national standards, precipitating a long list of human diseases, acceleration of the aging process and premature death,” said Jonny Vasic, Executive Director for Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “The pollution from Hunter and Huntington not only creates regional haze but the burning of the coal represents a health hazard to people throughout Southern Utah and beyond.”

“It’s time for Utah to take measurable action to hold two of Utah’s biggest contributors to Regional Haze accountable,” said Alex Veilleux, Policy associate for The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah. “We are now almost two decades into regional haze implementation with no action and must act swiftly to protect our national parks for future generations. This is not negotiable.”

The Division of Air Quality is accepting comments on its plan through May 31, 2022.