Fixing Haze Pollution: Wyoming People Deserve the Facts

Jim_Bridger_Plant_aerial

Wyoming’s Jim Bridger coal-fired power plant.

 

Ad Campaign is Creating Its Own Haze

By Bruce Pendery

There has been quite a concerted advertising and PR campaign running in the pages of Wyoming’s local papers in recent days and weeks slamming the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to fix haze pollution in Wyoming.

Part of this effort has included an attempt to paint this plan as part of some sort of Obama administration assault on coal.

But this advertising campaign is creating its own haze, and underestimates the people of Wyoming. It assumes we’re not paying attention.

The truth is a solid majority of Wyoming citizens reject the assertions in these advertisements.

We also disagree with our political leaders when they are unwilling to reject industry attempts to mislead and misinform. The EPA’s proposed rule is not partisan.

In fact the law that the EPA is working to implement dates back to President George H.W. Bush.

It’s the Law

So let’s talk about reality. To conform with the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed important regulations to restore visibility in what are called “Class I” areas—many of our national parks and wilderness areas.

Wyoming has seven iconic places that are designated Class I airsheds—Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and the Washakie, North Absaroka, Teton, Fitzpatrick, and Bridger Wilderness Areas.

Under the terms of the Clean Air Act, and the EPA’s subsequent regional haze regulations, our nation’s important wilderness areas and national parks cannot be made hazy by industrial pollution.

The EPA is working to meet this legal requirement with these proposed regulations.

Contrary to the claims of a few industry representatives and some Wyoming leaders, these regulations are not a surprise: Wyoming, the EPA, and industry have known for more than 15 years that these pollution improvements are required by the Clean Air Act and would need to be put into effect here.

The EPA’s proposed haze regulations are achievable and will be phased-in gradually. If adopted, coal-fired power plants wouldn’t have to completely eliminate haze-producing emissions for decades.

There is a potential bonus, too—while not the focus of this action, the new pollution control requirements will greatly reduce air pollution in the forms of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter all over the state, something that would have significant public health benefits for all of us.

We recognize that some in Wyoming, including our governor, have spoken out against these proposed regulations in the news media and at public hearings. And the coal-fired power plant industry, particularly Basin Electric and Rocky Mountain Power (PacifiCorp), have engaged in a massive opposition campaign that has included full-page newspaper advertisements.

But the law of the land calls for these regulations, and they are also strongly supported by the vast majority of citizens in Wyoming and the West. These regulations would serve the public interest and meet EPA’s legal obligations.

To this end, throughout 2012, the state of Wyoming and the EPA continued a multiyear project to create a new regional haze rule that would ultimately ensure that this piece of the Clean Air Act that deals with haze is fully and faithfully implemented in Wyoming.

Wyoming was required by law to have a legally sufficient final plan approved by the EPA by fall of 2012, which the state failed to accomplish. As a result, the EPA has stepped in with its own proposal for several aspects of haze control in this state—as it is required to do.

While there is room for improvement with certain elements of these proposed rules, if adopted, the EPA’s proposed plan will more quickly and certainly allow all of us to once again enjoy the broad sweeping vistas in protected areas that are part of our nation’s heritage.

What is Haze?

We all know it when we see it, and we see too much of it in Wyoming. It’s that smudge that dulls the blue sky and dims the stars. Landmarks and mountains, once easily seen off in the distance, all but disappear from view. The cause? Many sources of pollution contribute to haze but to a significant degree it is the result of pollution from coal-fired power plants, which, in Wyoming, ship most of their power out of state.

Public Support for Clean Air

In 2012 Colorado College released its annual State of the Rockies west-wide poll. This was a scientifically rigorous assessment of public attitudes and opinions toward environmental protection among voters in six western states, including Wyoming.

The poll found that in Wyoming voters support continued implementation of the Clean Air Act by updating standards for air quality, “including for smog, dust, and emissions from power plants, factories and cars based on the latest science”—by a 62 percent margin.

And by the same margin Wyoming voters also said that laws governing environmental protection, including clean air, were more likely to be “important safeguards to protect private property owners, public health and taxpayers from toxic pollution and costly clean-ups” with less than a third of respondents saying these efforts are burdensome constraints on economic development.

Overall, throughout the West, the poll found that a strong majority of voters of all political stripes want the government to uphold and strengthen protections for our environment.

Wholly 80 percent of western voters view having a good economy and protecting the environment as compatible with each other and 99 percent feel that public lands such as national parks, forests, and wildlife areas are “an essential part” of the economies of these states.

Thus, there is strong public support for controlling haze that mars our priceless national parks and wilderness areas. And the law requires these measures. These are the facts, contrary to the claims made in industry advertising campaigns and mistaken political opinions.


For more information you can visit the EPA website at http://www2.epa.gov/region8/air-program. You can also contact Bruce Pendery at the Wyoming Outdoor Council: 435-752-2111, bruce@wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org.

 

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Posted in *All posts, Public Health & Environmental Quality, Public Lands & Wildlife Tagged with: , , ,
4 comments on “Fixing Haze Pollution: Wyoming People Deserve the Facts
  1. Janice Harris says:

    Thanks, Bruce, for this clear and strong response to the obscurantism of the ad campaign being mounted by opponents to the EPA’s proposal to fix haze pollution in Wyoming.

  2. Justin Turcotte says:

    The EPA Regional Haze Program was announced on July 1, 1999 when Bill Clinton was President. George W. Bush was in office during the spin up period when states needed to submit their plans of action. While people pointing fingers at Obama are aiming in the wrong direction, your comment “In fact the law that the EPA is working to implement dates back to President George H.W. Bush” is somewhat misleading. While Bush gets blamed for everything from elephant farts to dinosaur extinction, this EPA program cannot be pinned on him.

  3. Justin Turcotte says:

    I must make a correction (H.W. versus W)… George H.W. Bush was in office when the EPA began monitoring visibility. The actual EPA Regional Haze Program was announced on July 1, 1999 when Bill Clinton was President. George W. Bush was in office during the spin up period when states needed to submit their plans of action. While people pointing fingers at Obama are aiming in the wrong direction, your comment “In fact the law that the EPA is working to implement dates back to President George H.W. Bush” is somewhat misleading. It’s one thing to monitor, another to implement.

    • Thanks for your comment and for adding to the discussion, Justin. The law that Bruce is referring to in this article is the Clean Air Act of 1990, which was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, and which contained the provisions for improving visibility in “Class I” areas. The Clean Air Act of 1990 (Title I, Sections 169A and 169B) called for the remedy of existing–and the prevention of future–impairment of visibility in 156 Class I federal areas, the impairment of which results from manmade air pollution. The EPA regulations issued in 1999 were not a discrete action by that agency, they were pursuant to this law. The monitoring was a key step in that process. But the EPA’s next move toward implementation was also pursuant to the Clean Air Act, which specifically calls for a regulatory program to meet the national goal of no impairment of visibility in mandatory class one areas. –Chris Merrill

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