Powder River Basin Resource Council, National Parks Conservation Association, and Sierra Club welcomed a decision from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposing to deny a change to a long-standing pollution control plan for the Jim Bridger coal plant in Wyoming.
Wyoming and the utility that operates the plant, PacifiCorp (or, Wyoming-based Rocky Mountain Power), sought to rush through a proposal that weakens the company’s obligation to reduce pollution during the last year of the Trump Administration. Yesterday, the EPA announced it is proposing to deny the plan from the state and PacifiCorp as it was inconsistent with Clean Air Act requirements to reduce haze-causing pollution from the plant.
Haze pollution, which impacts over 90% of all national parks, harms both public health and air quality in parks including Grand Teton National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. And, according to the NPCA, the Jim Bridger plant is the third in the nation for being the worst source of haze in the U.S.
“The Jim Bridger Power Plant is our state’s number one polluter. Harmful nitrogen oxide pollution negatively affects the public health of Wyomingites and it mars the scenic vistas of our treasured national parks and wilderness areas,” said Shannon Anderson, Staff Attorney at the Powder River Basin Resource Council. “PacifiCorp has been dragging its feet hoping to strong arm the agency into the decision it wanted. We hope EPA’s action smooths a path for the utility to finally take its obligation to reduce pollution seriously, and in the process, giving certainty to plant workers and the local community about the future.”
“Yellowstone National Park, which received over 1 million visitors in a single month, is directly in the pollution path of the Jim Bridger Power Plant. The urgency of protecting communities in the path, as well as Grand Teton National Park visitors, rangers, staff, wildlife and landscapes cannot be understated,” said Stephanie Kodish, Senior Director and Counsel for National Parks Conservation Association’s (NPCA) Clean Air and Climate Programs. “NPCA commends the EPA for choosing pollution reduction and protecting our public lands and public health over rewarding industry and state efforts to avoid doing so. Our clean air laws are meant to restore clean and clear skies, and EPA’s job in upholding these laws is instrumental.”
“For eight years, PacifiCorp has irresponsibly acted as if it’s above the law by not planning to control pollution from one of the region’s dirtiest coal plants. Now, workers at the Jim Bridger coal plant may pay the price for PacifiCorp’s willful disregard of the law,” says Lindsay Beebe, Sierra Club Senior Campaign Representative. “EPA is doing the right thing by holding PacifiCorp accountable to the clean air law that protects our priceless national parks from more coal pollution.”
The groups also called on the state of Wyoming and PacifiCorp to work together to develop a plan to address the economic impacts and unemployment that may result from an early closure of the coal plant as a result of the utility’s inaction to comply with the plan that has been in place since January 2014.
“A just and equitable economic transition for the workers and the communities surrounding the Jim Bridger Power Plant is possible, and we look forward to being a part of the conversation to make it happen,” added Michele Irwin, Southwest Wyoming Organizer for Powder River Basin Resource Council.