EPA Cracks Down on Dirty Utah Coal Plants
May 01, 2012
For Immediate Release: May 1, 2012
Contact: Matt Pacenza, Heal Utah, 801-355-5055
EPA issues partial rejection of Utah air quality plan;
Two aging PacifiCorp coal plants are key offenders; utility now urged to consider
SALT LAKE CITY – The state’s plan for improving air quality in Utah was rejected as inadequate on key counts by the EPA late yesterday, prompting community, business, and public health leaders to call for improvements and for Utah’s dirtiest coal-burning plants to transition to cleaner energy sources.
The Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ) had proposed minimal upgrades on aging coal power plants to reduce unsightly and unhealthy air pollution which diminishes views at Utah national parks, from Arches to Canyonlands to Zion.
Reducing air pollution helps build strong local economies, said one local elected official. “We should be doing everything in our power to clean up dirty air from coal-burning power plants,” said Audrey Graham, a member of the Grand County Council near Moab. “Visitors notice when the air isn’t clear, and they’re less likely to return to our parks. So in a very real sense, air pollution can hurt us economically.”
Utah’s five national parks drew 5.7 million visitors in 2008, collectively ringing up more than $400 million in spending, which supported nearly 9,000 jobs.
EPA’s decision sends the state back to work harder to reduce coal power plant nitrogen oxide emissions, which combine with other compounds to form ugly smog in the form of dangerous ground-level ozone and fine particulate pollution that gets deep into the lungs.
“We shouldn’t be cutting corners when it comes to limiting pollution from coal burning power plants,” says Dr. Cris Cowley, Vice President of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “We need strong regulations to protect public health."
Nazz Kurth, the President of Clearfield-based Petzl America, thanked the EPA for pushing Utah to clean up its act. "Many of our customers spend their time in Utah's spectacular open spaces, climbing, canyoneering, or trail running,” Kurth said. “For them and us, air quality is an critical matter in terms of natural beauty and also health. We have to take it seriously.”
Because of their old age, PacifiCorp’s Hunter Power Plant (near Castle Dale) and Huntington Power Plant (near Huntington) are overdue for pollution control upgrades. PacifiCorp had been planning to continue running the 35- and 40-year-old plants with bare minimum pollution-control retrofits under the state’s plan that EPA rejected. The pollution from both plants has major impacts on human health and on haze at nearby national parks.
“PacifiCorp’s old coal plants spew out tens of thousands of tons of harmful pollution. They need far better controls than the company has been intending,” said Heal Utah Executive Director Christopher Thomas. “Now is the time for smarter options, like retiring more coal units and moving to cleaner energy sources.”
Combined, Hunter and Huntington emit 32,000 tons of nitrogen oxide and sulfur pollution annually. According to a 2010 analysis commissioned by the state and conducted by Synapse Energy Economics, emissions from coal-burning power plants are responsible each year in Utah for 202 premature deaths, 154 hospital visits for respiratory injuries, and 175 asthma-related emergency room visits.
According to the American Lung Association’s latest report card, six counties in Utah get failing grades for soot and particulate pollution and another four get F’s for ozone pollution. Public health costs each year resulting from the Huntington and Hunter plants’ fine particulate pollution amount to more than $200 million, according to a 2010 report by the Clean Air Task Force.
Industry-standard pollution controls – called selective catalytic reduction, or SCR – that are already in place on 200 other coal-burning power plants around the country are absent from Huntington and Hunter. SCR makes dramatic reductions in both particulates and nitrogen pollution.
Hunter and Huntington power plants
Huntington Power Plant, near Huntington, UT
· 960 megawatts from 2 units: Unit 1 built in 1973, Unit 2 built in 1970
· Nitrogen oxide emissions: 8,283 tons/year
· Sulfur: 3,117 tons/year
· Carbon: 5.7 million metric tons/year (equivalent to 1.1 million vehicles)
· Total nitrogen and sulfur: 11,400 tons/year
· Total air toxics according to EPA Toxic Release Inventory: 7.4 million pounds over past 10 years, the most of any coal plant in the West (this includes neurotoxins such as mercury and lead, cancer-causing carcinogens such as chromium and nickel, and acids such as hydrochloric acid)
· Given its ongoing compliance problems with air emissions permits, the EPA has tagged Huntington as a “high priority violator” of the Clean Air Act.
· Health impacts and costs each year from Huntington’s fine particulate pollution, according to a 2010 report by the Clean Air Task Force: 15 deaths, 22 heart attacks, 320 asthma attacks, 10 hospital admissions, 10 chronic bronchitis, 13 asthma-related emergency room visits, leading to $117 million in total public health costs.
Hunter Power Plant, near Castle Dale, UT
· 1,320 megawatts from 3 units: Unit 1 built in 1978, Unit 2 built in 1980, Unit 3 built in 1983
· Nitrogen oxide emissions: 16,205 tons/year (in top 10 worst in the West)
· Sulfur: 4,558 tons/year
· Carbon: 8.9 million metric tons/year (equivalent to 1.7 million vehicles)
· Total nitrogen and sulfur: 20,763 tons/year
· Total air toxics according to EPA Toxic Release Inventory: 1.7 million pounds over past 10 years (this includes neurotoxins such as mercury and lead, cancer-causing carcinogens such as chromium and nickel, and acids such hydrochloric acid)
· Health impacts and costs each year from Hunter’s fine particulate pollution, according to a 2010 report by the Clean Air Task Force: 12 deaths, 18 heart attacks, 260 asthma attacks, 8 hospital admissions, 8 chronic bronchitis, 10 asthma-related emergency room visits, leading to $92 million in total public health costs.
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