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EPA Gets An Earful in Utah About National Park Haze

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Judy Fahys/KUER
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Mary McGann (at the podium) urges federal environmental officials to require new equipment on central Utah power plants to cut regional haze. Hundreds of coal country Utahns attended to Salt Lake City hearing to voice support for a state plan.

Federal regulators visited Salt Lake City Tuesday to hear from Utahns about how to deal with the haze that plagues national parks of the West. People from Utah’s coal country and its environmental community gave U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials an earful of advice Tuesday.

During hours of public hearings, the question was on whether to order new emissions controls for PacifiCorp’s two coal-fired power plants in Emery County. What environmentalists call the “Clean Parks Plan” would require the plants to install another $600 million in clean-air equipment. Mary McGann, a Grand County Councilwoman, told the EPA that clean air and a healthy economy can coexist.

“Please protect Utah’s health, environment and tourism industry,” she said. “Require Utah to implement the Clean Park Plan. Thank you very much.”

The environmental groups and the National Park Service support that plan. But state regulators say their analysis shows that the expense won’t pay off in lower pollution, and their supporters packed a Salt Lake City Library meeting room. Around 300 coal miners and their supporters urged the officials to stick with Utah’s plan to reduce emissions.

“Are we truly trying to clean the air, or are we just trying to cripple industry, jobs and our way of life?” asked Bill King, an engineer for Canyon Fuel Company. “We need to approve Utah’s current regional haze state implementation plan.”

EPA officials said they’re still considering arguments made by both sides.  They’ll be taking comments through March 14 before deciding.

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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