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EPA Mulls Dueling Haze Cleanup Plans

John Fowler
Flickr Creative Commons
Congress has ordered states to clean up pollution that makes the skies hazy near national parks, like Arches in southeastern Utah. EPA is considering Utah's plan during a 60-day comment period.

Federal regulators are weighing a decision on Utah’s plan for cleaning up haze around the national parks.

The Environmental Protection Agency is asking for public input on two haze reduction plans. One’s been proposed by the Utah Division of Air Quality.

The other’s backed by environmentalists like Lindsay Beebe, who leads the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Utah. They say two coal-fired power plants in Emery County should be required to install hundreds of millions of dollars in new pollution equipment so the power company that owns them bears the cost of their emissions.

“We are trying to ensure that the industries that benefit,” says Beebe, “are able to internalize those costs so that we realize that coal is not a cheep electricity and that we have much better much cleaner alternatives available to us.”

She points out that over 200 power plants around the country are being required to install the same equipment.

Meanwhile, Utah DAQ officials defend their plan by saying it’s already been working for more than a decade and that the environmentalists are demanding equipment that won’t clean up the kind of pollution that’s causing trouble. Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality, welcomes the EPA’s 60-day public comment process.

“We think that there is a path to good environmental regulation by having good information out there and good public dialog about that information,” he says.

The EPA plans a hearing at Salt Lake City’s Main Library on January 26. The agency will take comments on both strategies before it makes a final decision.

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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