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People often think of air pollution as a far-off, Beijing-type problem. Not to compare their respective scopes, but Utah's national parks find themselves engulfed in a dirty haze most of the time. The National Park Service thinks the state and local businesses are dragging their feet.

The National Park Service is pressing Utah environmental regulars to crack down on emissions at two coal-fired power plants to improve air quality and views in the state’s five national parks.

Haze mars vistas at the parks about three-fourths of the time in violation of federal regulations mandating upgrades at the nation’s dirtiest power plants to protect their air quality, the park service wrote in April 2 letters to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. [The parks are Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Arches National Park, Capitol Reef National Park and Canyonlands National Park.]

The park service wants the state to require further reductions in nitrogen-oxide emissions at two coal-fired power plants in central Utah through installation of retrofit technology known as selective catalytic reduction.

But the Utah Division of Air Quality would not take the step under proposed revisions to its plan to combat regional haze, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

“The state clearly values the importance of the five national parks in Utah and actively promotes national tourism, yet at the same time it appears unprepared to fulfill its legal requirements under the Clean Air Act and associated regulations to protect and enhance the very scenic views that attract millions of visitors to the parks every year,” wrote Tammy Whittington, associate regional park service director.

Utah’s air quality division maintains $588 million in past upgrades and the recent shutdown of Rocky Mountain Power’s aging Carbon Power Plant help the state meet regional haze standards.

Rocky Mountain Power contends retrofits to its Hunter and Huntington power stations in Emery County would be cost prohibitive.

“You’re talking in excess of $170 million per unit. They are custom retrofits; the actual cost would vary per unit. You get a better result by the work already done at Hunter and Huntington and the Carbon closure than the regional haze rules requires,” Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Dave Eskelsen told The Tribune.

“If you add” selective catalytic reduction “to those units, you get a substantial expense to consumers with a marginal benefit to the regional haze quality,” he added.

Selective catalytic reduction retrofits would reduce Hunter and Huntington nitrogen-oxide emissions by 14,700 tons, or 86 percent, according to environmental groups.

Last year, the EPA rejected portions of Utah’s regional haze plan, and environmentalists say the state’s revised plan is not much different.

“They keep delaying and delaying and re-proposing the same plan,” said Cory MacNulty of the National Parks Conservation Association. “We have to have reductions that go much deeper than this plan to clean the air over our parks.”


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune,

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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Tags: national parks, utah

Photo credit: Bryce Canyon National Park in January 2011. Bryce Canyon National History Association

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