For Immediate Release
30,000+ Signatures Supporting Strong Protection From Coal Pollution for Utah Sent To EPA
SALT LAKE CITY - A coalition of outdoor industry business leaders, clean air and park advocates, and winter sports athletes today announced that a petition with more than 30,000 signatures has been delivered to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 8 Administrator Shaun McGrath urging the EPA to compel strong and fair limits on coal pollution impacting Utah’s national parks and communities.
The EPA must decide on the State of Utah’s proposal, which would allow unabated air pollution from Rocky Mountain Power’s Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants instead of requiring industry-standard pollution controls.
The signatures have been gathered since December 2014 and represent states and communities across the country.
According to Peter Metcalf, founder and CEO of outdoor-equipment brand Black Diamond, the benefits of protecting Utah parks and people from coal pollution are many. “Utah's stunning national parks are part of our state's heritage, our way of life, and a vital part of our economy. They're why so many choose to settle here, to raise families here, to grow old here," Metcalf says. "Utahns deserve the same protections from damaging coal pollution that other states afford to their residents. Protecting our national parks is about protecting our economy and the communities that depend on them.”
Pro skier and Salt Lake City local Angel Collinson concurs. “As a professional athlete, I rely on my health, a healthy environment, and a stable tourism economy to provide a platform for my livelihood,” Collinson says. “I've always been proud to call Utah my home, but as the years pass I’ve seen the air pollution threaten not only our Utah communities and national parks, but those in surrounding states.”
Utah is celebrated for its iconic national parks, stunning visual scenery, and world-class recreational areas. Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks are an economic engine for the state’s economy and the local recreation businesses that rely on the protection of these wild places. In 2014, more than 10 million visitors from around the world visited Utah’s national parks and added $730 million dollars to Utah’s economy. The tourism industry supports about 132,000 jobs, or about one out of every ten jobs in the state.
Earlier this month, a coalition of more than 100 winter sports athletes, outdoor recreation businesses and brands, and tourism leaders urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect national parks in Utah and across the West from haze-causing coal pollution. Citing the enormous role that Utah’s national parks play in the state’s $12 billion outdoor recreation economy, the coalition called on EPA Region 8 Administrator Shaun McGrath to require Rocky Mountain Power’s Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants to reduce dangerous coal pollution by installing modern, cost effective, and achievable controls, as EPA has done in states like Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. A copy of the coalition’s letter can be found here.
Cory MacNulty, Senior Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, says Utah’s plan is insufficient. “The proposal sent by the state of Utah to EPA does absolutely nothing to cut the nitrogen-oxide pollution from the Hunter and Huntington coal plants.” MacNulty says. “This pollution obscures up to 30 miles of the spectacular scenic landscapes that should be visible through Delicate Arch and from the Island in the Sky viewpoint in Canyonlands National Park. Nearly 2 million visitors each year come to these two extraordinary national parks to experience the magnificent vistas of mesas, buttes, canyons, arches, and spires that sadly are eclipsed most of the time by human caused haze. NPCA is asking EPA, at the very least, to require the same level of pollution controls as has been required for our neighboring states.”
Under the Clean Air Act’s “Regional Haze Rule”, federal and state agencies are required to work together to improve visibility at all "Class I" national parks and wilderness areas, including Utah’s National Parks. Utah is one of the last states in the country to address emissions from power plants that pollute skies and shroud the views at national parks.
The Hunter and Huntington plants are responsible for 40 percent of all nitrogen oxide emissions from Utah's electric sector, according to a recently released report. Monitoring studies have also shown visibility at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks is diminished by human-caused haze 83 percent of the time relative to the annual average level of natural haze.
In addition, pollution mapping has demonstrated the haze-causing emissions from Rocky Mountain Power’s Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants reaches beyond Utah’s borders, threatening air quality in national parks as far north as Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, as far south as the Grand Canyon, and east to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.