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Health, Science & Environment

New Provisions To State Haze Plan Disappoint Environmentalists

Brian Grimmett
Bryce Canyon National Park

A state panel signed off on new commitments this week to track the pollution that leaves National Park vistas hazy. But the controversy over the state’s cleanup plan is expected to continue.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to be sure Utah’s not exaggerating about the pollution cuts it’s made to clear up the haze. So the state Air Quality Board committed earlier this week to monitor and double-check the promised reductions.

Board member Arnold Reitze, a University of Utah law professor, is an expert on air-pollution laws. He says just a little pollution can create a lot of haze, and that makes it tough to clean up. “How do you have growth and economic development and population increases and still maintain the visibility that was available in the sixteenth century?,” he says. “It’s a very, very difficult task.”

Reitze says the Clean Air Act gave states half a century to solve the problem.

Utah’s been working on its haze-reduction plan for more than two decades and insists its cleanup strategy has already proven effective.

But the National Park Service and environmental groups say the state’s plan is too little too late.

Cory McNulty works on air-quality issues in the National Parks Conservation Association’s Salt Lake City office. She says Monday’s action represents little progress.

“They’re attempting top resolve a technical issue,” she says. “It’s not a step forward from our perspective. It does not achieve any additional pollution reductions.”

NPCA, backed by the Sierra Club and HEAL Utah, says cleaning up the skies means new pollution controls at two central Utah power plants, controls estimated to cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The group released a report earlier this week that gives the state’s five national parks poor grades for ozone, haze and climate pollution.

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