Court says Utah’s national parks deserve dirty, hazy coal-polluted air. Thanks, Pruitt.

  • Published on September 12th, 2017

A federal appeals court Monday granted the Trump regime’s request to stop implementation of an Obama era Environmental Protection Agency plan requiring new pollution controls at two of the nation’s oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants in Utah.

Haze enshrouds Canyonlands National Park's Island in the Sky.By Meteor Blades

The plan was designed as part of the EPA’s “regional haze rule” promulgated under the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. The rule itself, dating back to 1999, is an attempt to reduce visible pollution at U.S. national parks, national monuments, and wilderness areas that is created as a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, particularly coal, to generate electricity and for industrial purposes.

In addition to the visibility issues in scenic areas, particulates making up the haze are linked to increased respiratory illness, decreased lung function, and premature death.

States were allowed to come up with their own compliance plans. But many did a half-assed job of it, kowtowing to utilities in several states. So the EPA stepped in with plans of their own.

But the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals okayed Pruitt’s request to halt a lawsuit initiated by Rocky Mountain Power against the EPA to give the agency time to revise its plan requiring new equipment to be installed to cut nitrogen oxide emissions at two Utah coal plants.

Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah’s Republican delegation to Congress, who introduced legislation in March to trash the plan, are elated by the federal retreat. Environmental advocacy groups, on the other hand, are disappointed but not surprised to see EPA administrator Scott Pruitt choose to revise the plan, which requires rejecting the agency’s own research showing that it would cut haze at Utah’s Arches and Canyonlands national parks, as well as other public lands in the state, including some designated as protected under the Wilderness Act. Pruitt informed Utah officials in July that he was going to reconsider the plan.

In response six months ago to the Lee-Chaffetz legislation:

“The science and the facts here is just mindbogglingly complicated,” says Arnold Reitze, a University of Utah law professor who serves on Utah’s Air Quality Board. “It was a close call. And now we have Congress, which has no technical expertise in the subject, weighing in and throwing their weight around.”

A key foe of the plan all along has been Rocky Mountain Power, owner of some of the nation’s filthiest coal-fired power plants. The company objects to being forced to install equipment providing “selective catalytic reduction.” SCR has already been adopted at more than 200 coal plants throughout the country, according to HEAL Utah, a clean air advocacy group.

State officials in Utah have claimed their plan would do a good job of cleaning up the haze without costing the coal plants’ owners so much money to retrofit their operations. Spouting the industry line, Dave McNeill, the planning manager at the Utah Division of Air Quality, said: “There was a lot of scientific data that was basically ignored in the old administration. It was a ‘war on coal’ issue that the old administration was going through.”

After learning of the court’s ruling, Michael Shea, a senior policy associate at HEAL Utah, told Brady McCombs at the Associated Press:

“We all knew that things were going to be bad and this is kind of the first big hit that Utah has taken as far as the rollback,” Shea said. “This is a loss for not only the environmental movement, but for anybody who loves Utah’s national parks.”

Together with budget and staff cuts, rollback now seems to be a major priority at the EPA. However long the Trump regime lasts in office to grovel at the feet of the fossil fuel fools, the damage being done by Pruitt to the environment and the agency will take years to repair.

(Originally appeared at DailyKos. National Park Service photo.)

About the Author

Meteor Blades is a writer and contributing editor at DailyKos. He believes there is something profoundly wrong with our system. - the unchecked accumulation of wealth and power into the hands of a very small group of corporate business interests has contributed to the wholesale corruption of our political system. For an understanding about the level of corruption in our country, he encourages you to view these two PBS documentaries: (1). ,The Untouchables; (2) The United States of ALEC.