As presidential nominees were courting coal miners in Appalachia, a coalition of businesses and private citizens were fighting to limit pollution from Utah’s Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants. Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled in favor of clean air, requiring the plants to install industry-standard pollution control mechanisms. The coalition’s proposal, known as the Clean Parks Plan, received more than 85,000 comments and petitions of support. This is a stunning turn of events in the Beehive State. As we reported in “The Ski Resort and the Coal Burner” (Deep Winter, 2016), Utah has been reluctant to comply with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan—going so far as to join 23 states in suing the agency to avoid cutting back on emissions.
Behind the Clean Parks Plan were more than 250 businesses, from Utah, Arizona, and Colorado (including, by way of full disclosure, Mountain Media, the publisher of Mountain magazine, Mountain Logbook, and mountainonline.com). The Clean Parks Plan called out the threat the plants pose to national parks, wilderness areas, outdoor communities, and the broader economy. In particular, they cited the need to protect national treasures like Grand Canyon, Arches, and Canyonlands national parks, the health of our fellow Americans, and the combined $36 billion, or 6 percent, of the nation’s $646 billion outdoor-recreation economy. In Utah alone, tourism supports about one of every 10 jobs in the state.
The Hunter and Huntington coal plants are owned by Rocky Mountain Power, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s PacifiCorp, and are known to spew haze and pollution throughout Utah and across its border into Colorado. The plants also account for 40 percent of all nitrogen oxide emissions in Utah’s electric sector.
Now, with the Clean Parks Plan approved, the Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants must reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 9,885 tons each year, although the plants still have five years to comply. Read the full press release here. —Kiran Herbert
Read more: In “Wilderness and War,” a US veteran urges your help in protecting Utah’s National Parks from coal pollution.