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Ninth Circuit Upholds EPA’s Clean Air Safeguards in Arizona Regional Haze Plan

Victory: Court rules Agency’s actions complied with the Clean Air Act, maintains plan to clean air at national parks and wilderness areas

Grand Canyon in the snow.

KAREN GRIGORYAN / SHUTTERSTOCK
February 24, 2016
Denver, CO —

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion today safeguarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regional haze plan for Arizona. The court ruled that EPA properly disapproved Arizona’s inadequate state haze plan for the Coronado coal-fired power plant.  In addition, the court ruled that EPA’s federal plan requiring the Coronado coal plant to install updated pollution controls complied with the Clean Air Act. 

Location of the Coronado coal plant.
Air pollution from coal-fired power plants, such as the Coronado in Arizona, impact neighboring national parks and wilderness areas, including the Grand Canyon.

“The court’s ruling upholds EPA’s plan to clean up the air at the Grand Canyon and other national parks and wilderness areas in Arizona,” said Earthjustice attorney Michael Hiatt, who represents National Parks Conservation Association and Sierra Club in the Ninth Circuit litigation. “The State of Arizona refused to do so, and today’s ruling in support of EPA is a victory for the millions of people who visit Arizona’s renowned national parks and will breathe cleaner air as a result of this decision.” 

Background Information

The Clean Air Act’s regional haze program sets a national goal of clean, haze-free air in national parks and wilderness areas.  The cornerstone of the regional haze program is the national goal of eliminating human-caused visibility impairment in national parks, wilderness areas, and other “Class I areas” by 2064. One important component of the regional haze program is the requirement that certain coal-fired power plants and other heavily-polluting sources install the best available pollution controls. 

Arizona and neighboring states are home to a wealth of renowned national parks and wilderness areas, including the Grand Canyon. The famous scenic views at these iconic national parks and wilderness areas draw millions of visitors every year.  Unfortunately, air pollution from the Cholla, Coronado, and Apache coal-fired power plants in Arizona impair these stunning scenic views. The National Park Service has found that these coal plants are among the worst visibility-impairing sources in the nation.  Arizona’s regional haze plan, however, did not require the three coal plants to install the best available pollution controls mandated by the Clean Air Act. As a result, EPA disapproved portions of Arizona’s plan and issued a federal plan in its place. EPA’s actions will require the three coal plants to install the best available pollution controls and will result in significant visibility improvements at Arizona’s national parks and wilderness areas.  The large pollution reductions under EPA’s plan will also provide important health and economic benefits for Arizonans.