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Environmentalists Want Tougher Clean-up Plan for Haze

Environmentalists want state regulators to come up with a tougher plan to clean up air pollution in rural Utah caused by coal-fired power plants.

They say they’ve delivered thousands of comments to the Utah Division of Air Quality explaining why Utah should require updated technology at Pacificorp’s Huntington and Hunter power plants to reduce what regulators call “regional haze.”

“It would dramatically reduce these pollutants, and not only protect the viewsheds of these national parks but also protect the health,” says Tim Wagner, executive director for the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

Western states brainstormed a strategy to clear up vistas in places like Grand Canyon National Park more than a decade ago, and DAQ says power companies have already spent nearly $600 million to cut sulfur and other haze-causing pollutants. The agency says the environmentalists want the plants to invest another $700 million in equipment that will do little to clear the air.

But, in Wagner’s view, the state is exaggerating the costs while minimizing the benefits.

“My direct response to that is the science is so much better than it was when the state of Utah first embarked down this road.”

The Utah Air Quality Board is expected to review the state’s plan in February, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the final say.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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