Photo by Scott Copeland
THE FEDERAL ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY has significant concerns about Wyoming’s proposed plan to reduce haze generated by polluters such as coal-fired power plants and trona mining operations.
The EPA sent a letter to Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality at the end of October, which indicates that Wyoming’s latest revision of a federally mandated air pollution plan has failed to honor specific requests previously made by the EPA.
Callie A. Videtich, the EPA’s regional director for its air program, was the signatory of the EPA’s most recent letter to the Cowboy State.
“It appears that the state did not address many of the concerns we detailed in [previous] letters,” Videtich wrote in the October correspondence.
And Wyoming’s current approach to air quality modeling is also likely deficient, according to Videtich, and could require a do-over.
Wyoming’s latest proposed plan represents an attempt to fulfill the requirements of a decade-old EPA rule intended to reduce haze over Class I areas, which are special landscapes throughout the United States.
“We believe the EPA’s most recent correspondence indicates that unless the DEQ makes substantive changes to its plan, it’s possible the EPA will reject it,” said Bruce Pendery, program director for the Wyoming Outdoor Council.
If the EPA were to reject Wyoming’s plan, the federal government could impose its own haze control plan—a possibility the DEQ likely wants to avoid because it would mean a loss of control over the decision-making process related to how the reductions would be accomplished.
REGIONAL HAZE RULE
Wyoming, like all states, is required by the EPA’s 1999 regional haze rule to create a plan to manage industrial air pollutants—such as sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen—that cause haze and can potentially ruin views over some of the nation’s most prized landscapes.
The pollutants that this rule is meant to address can also be dangerous to people exposed to them.
In Wyoming, much of the haze-producing air pollution comes from the state’s five coal-fired power plants and its three major trona mines. One of the most effective ways for the state to make the required reductions will be to oblige the power plants and mines to use what’s called the best available retrofit technology, or BART, to clean up their emissions.
“The state has a big job to do implementing BART and managing these pollutants,” Pendery said. “But it is critical that we achieve significant, maximum pollution control to protect these Class I areas, because they are some of our premier, treasured landscapes that people flock to Wyoming to see.”
REDUCING HAZE IN WYOMING, SOME BACKGROUND
To meet the requirements of the regional haze rule, the Wyoming DEQ has been working toward compliance for several years.
In 2003 the State adopted provisions related to the control of sulfur dioxide from large industrial sources. Sulfur dioxide is a key component of haze. More recently the state has been moving toward putting in place “best available retrofit technology,” or BART, requirements to control oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter emissions. Eight sources of air pollution in Wyoming have been determined to be “subject to BART,” because they cause or contribute to visibility impairment in at least one Class I area.
These eight sources are the Naughton, Jim Bridger, Laramie River, Dave Johnston and Wyodak coal-fired power plants, and the Granger, Westvaco, and Green River Works trona operations.
The EPA has offered many comments on the state’s attempts to comply with the regional haze rule so far, and these comments have generally been critical of Wyoming’s efforts.
Among other things, the EPA has said the proposed BART permitting conditions for coal-fired power plant have been deficient because Wyoming did not provide for sufficient controls of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.
In its comments on the state’s draft implementation plan, the EPA expressed concerns about Wyoming’s long-term strategy to reach natural visibility conditions, saying several of the state’s plans to postpone pollution control measures—or not to ensure their federal enforceability—were unacceptable.
“Since the EPA will ultimately have to approve the state’s plan, it may well get the last word on these issues,” Pendery said.
THE OUTDOOR COUNCIL’S ENGAGEMENT
In addition to the EPA’s comments on the state’s compliance efforts toward the regional haze rule, the Outdoor Council has also participated in the process, submitting comments on the BART proposals, and on the state’s draft implementation plan.
The Council’s principle concern with the BART proposals has been that the DEQ has not proposed requiring selective catalytic reduction for control of nitrogen oxides (NOX).
Selective catalytic reduction would achieve much greater levels of pollution control, and the EPA supported this view in its comments.
“The consequence of the state not putting in place more stringent requirements now is that more stringent requirements will have to be put in place in the future,” Pendery said. “And we doubt that postponing needed decisions is going to make achieving the Clean Air Act’s air quality goals for Class I areas any easier.”
The Air Quality Division seems to be taking a minimalist approach to reducing regional haze, he said, which is inadequate because Wyoming residents value such things as being able to see the Wind River Range from Rock Springs.
“Clean, clear air and expansive views, are qualities of Wyoming that are universally cherished by its residents,” Pendery said.
* You can read the Wyoming Outdoor Council’s and coalition partner’s comments on the BART permit proposals by clicking here and the Council’s comments on the proposed state implementation plan by clicking here.
* The Council’s comments on the trona plant BART permit proposals can be found at the regional haze section of our website here.
* You can get information on Wyoming’s regional haze rule compliance efforts at http:// deq.state.wy.us/aqd/regionalhaze.asp.
Media Contact: Bruce Pendery, Wyoming Outdoor Council, 435-752-2111, firstname.lastname@example.org