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Air Pollution from Utah Coal-fired Power Plant Targeted

January 9, 2015
Jeremy Nichols (303) 437-7663
In This Release
Climate + Energy  
Denver—A pollution permit for a Utah coal-fired power plant issued last month falls short of complying with federal air quality laws, spurring WildEarth Guardians to appeal to defend clean air and public health.

“Once again, the Environmental Protection Agency has given the Bonanza coal-fired power plant a free pass to pollute,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director. “This is about standing up for our clean air,which shouldn’t take a backseat to coal.”

In an appeal filed with the U.S. Environmental Appeals Board, Guardians challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s issuance of a Clean Air Act operating permit for the Bonanza coal-fired power plant,which is owned and operated by the Deseret Power Co-op.

The 500-megawatt power plant located southeast of Vernal, Utah, has a 600-foot tall smokestack that every year spews millions of tons of toxic air pollution, including nitrogen oxides,sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, mercury, lead, and carbon dioxide.

In 2013, the plant released 9,228 tons of nitrogen oxides, equal to the amount released annually by one million passenger vehicles (according to the Environmental Protection Agency, an average passenger vehicles releases 18.2 pounds of nitrogen oxides annually). It’s also the fourth largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state of Utah.

Built in the early 1980’s, the power plant has for years escaped regulation. In 2000, the plant was upgraded to burn more coal. Under the Clean Air Act, this project required Deseret to install the “best available” pollution controls. Deseret never did so, and has been operating out of compliance with the Clean Air Act ever since.

After being sued by WildEarth Guardians, in December, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a 25-year overdue permit governing the operation of the Bonanza power plant. Under the federal Clean Air Act, the permit was supposed contain provisions to bring the power plant back into compliance and ensure Deseret installed the “best available” pollution controls it failed to install in 2000.

While acknowledging that Deseret illegally upgraded the Bonanza power plant in 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency’s permit failed to contain any such provisions.

“The permit condones ongoing violations of the Clean Air Act, allowing Deseret to continue filling our air with illegal air pollution,”said Nichols. “This reckless permitting action needs to be overturned and the Environmental Protection Agency ordered to stop turning its back on our health.”

WildEarth Guardians’ appeal was filed with the Environmental Appeals Board, an administrative review body of the Environmental Protection Agency. A decision is likely bymid-2015.

WildEarth Guardians is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the wildlife, wild rivers, and wild places of the American West. Through its Climate and Energy Program, the organization works to safeguard clean air from fossil fuels. Guardians has offices throughout the West.