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EPA poised to accept Utah’s regional haze plan

Step means pollution controls are sufficient at Utah power plants

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Haze hovers over the Great Salt Lake in the late afternoon of Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016.

Deseret News archives

SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says Utah regulators have sufficiently crafted a plan to control regional haze by requiring pollution control technologies that will reduce fine particulate pollution from a pair of coal-fired power plants.

The proposal means Utah gets credits for existing nitrous oxide emission control systems on PacifiCorp’s Hunter and Huntington power plants and reductions in sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and fine particulates from the 2015 closure of the Carbon power plant.

The move by the EPA means it is proposing to withdraw a 2016 federal plan for addressing nitrous oxide pollution at the power plants.

Utah’s plan is based on technical information that was not available to the EPA in 2016, including a new modeling analysis that indicates the plan will achieve greater visibility than the federal plan, according to the agency.

Under the Utah plan, sulfur dioxide emissions drop by 5,814 tons per year and fine particulate pollution will drop by 303 tons per year. Nitrous oxide does increase by 4,238 tons per year, but overall, the Utah plan drops emissions by 1,800 tons more than the federal plan proposed to do.

“A greater reduction in total pollutants is achieved with the Utah plan, and a corresponding greater improvement in visibility at our national parks is achieved that is also done at a lower cost,” said Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality.

“When we built the plan we looked at the pollutant that had the greatest visibility impacts,” he said.

The proposed approval, however, brought condemnation from multiple groups, including the Sierra Club.

“Every hour Utah’s dirtiest coal plants, Hunter and Huntington, dump thousands of pounds of haze-producing nitrogen oxide pollution into the air, on the doorstep of some of our most precious landscapes,” said Lindsay Beebe, senior organizer at the Sierra Club. “Rocky Mountain Power has a responsibility to its customers to protect our air, rather than side stepping federal regulations to bail out dirty coal when healthy, affordable renewable energy is available to us.”

The EPA will accept comments for 60 days and hold a public hearing before issuing a final decision. The hearing is Feb. 12 at the Jennifer Leavitt Student Center at the Utah State University eastern campus, 400 N. 410 E. Price, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and again from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.