Arizona Businesses Call Foul on Utah Coal Pollution

A coalition of 50 Arizona businesses urges EPA to protect the Grand Canyon and Arizona’s outdoor-recreation economy from dangerous Utah coal pollution.

PHOENIX – A coalition of 50 Arizona businesses sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday, May 16, urging protection for Grand Canyon National Park and Arizona’s $11 billion outdoor-recreation economy from haze-causing coal pollution emitted by two Utah coal-fired power plants. The EPA is expected to rule on the matter on June 1, 2016.

The Arizona coalition joins business groups in Colorado and Utah in calling for pollution reductions at Utah’s Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants, which have been shown to threaten a vast swath of Western land that includes nine national parks and wilderness areas, countless communities and families, and an immense regional outdoor-recreation economy.

Citing the importance of Grand Canyon National Park as an economic driver and cultural foundation for Arizona, the coalition called on EPA Region 8 Administrator Shaun McGrath to require Utah’s Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants to reduce the dangerous coal pollution, which contains nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter. Both plants are owned by Rocky Mountain Power, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s PacifiCorp.

Pollution mapping has demonstrated that the haze-causing emissions from Rocky Mountain Power’s Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants reach well beyond Utah’s borders, threatening air quality and shrouding some of our most spectacular Western landscapes, including the Grand Canyon and eight other national parks and wilderness areas in Utah and Colorado.

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.

“Given all of our technological advances, it’s time we put effort into responsible energy so our children can live better lives,” says Brady Black of Moenkopi Riverworks in Flagstaff. “Reducing coal pollution isn’t just the right thing to do for the environment, it's also great for business.”

"Exploring the Grand Canyon's pristine backcountry inspired my husband and I to start our gear manufacturing business,” says Shannon Flowers of Supai Adventure Gear in Phoenix. “We support every effort to protect the Grand Canyon and all of Arizona’s wild places from coal pollution and development, and to assure a better world."

In December, the EPA released a draft plan with two options for dealing with nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution emitted by two of Utah’s oldest and dirtiest coal-burning power plants. The first option calls for a 76% reduction in haze-causing nitrogen oxide pollution from four units at the Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants using industry-standard pollution controls.

The other option was put forth by the state of Utah and requires no additional pollution controls. This “business as usual” approach gives Rocky Mountain Power credit for its closure last year of the much smaller Carbon coal plant, which is now being dismantled, but it would unfortunately allow the substantial pollution from the Hunter and Huntington plants to continue unabated.

The EPA must select one of the proposals and have a final plan in place by June 1, 2016.

“It’s great to see Arizona businesses take a stand to protect the Grand Canyon and clean air across the state,” says Chris Steinkamp, executive director of climate-advocacy group Protect Our Winters. “Utah’s air pollution threatens Arizona’s vitally important outdoor economy, so we urge the EPA to ensure strong and fair pollution reductions at Hunter and Huntington plants.”

The Grand Canyon is deeply tied to Arizona’s identity and underpins the state’s outdoor-recreation economy. According to the National Park Service, the 4.3 million people who visited in 2011 spent $467,257,000, directly supporting 7,361 Arizona jobs. Statewide, outdoor recreation is crucial to the economy, generating nearly $11 billion in consumer spending, $3.3 billion in wages and revenues, and $787 million in state and local tax revenues.

Under the Clean Air Act’s “Regional Haze Rule,” federal and state agencies are required to work together to improve visibility at all “Class 1” national parks and wilderness areas, including Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Utah is one of the last states in the country to require power plants to reduce haze-forming emissions that pollute skies and shroud the views at national parks. That negligence threatens Arizona’s economy and public health.

Rocky Mountain Power’s Hunter and Huntington plants are responsible for 40 percent of all nitrogen oxide emissions from Utah’s electric sector, according to EPA emissions data. Air quality monitoring has shown that visibility at Arches and Canyonlands national parks is diminished by human-caused haze 83 percent of the time relative to the annual average level of natural haze.

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