On Monday a federal court of appeals denied a request from the state of Arizona and four utility companies to delay installing modern pollution controls on three large coal-fired power plants. The state and power companies were seeking a delay until litigation is complete concerning the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regional haze requirements for the Cholla, Coronado, and Apache power plants.
The decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denies the requested stay of EPA’s requirements for the three coal plants, while at the same time sending a positive signal that EPA’s decision stands on solid legal ground. The coal plants must now move forward with installing updated pollution controls that limit nitrogen oxides pollution, which causes haze, ozone, and other air pollution.
“The court’s ruling prevents the state of Arizona and the utility companies’ attempts to further delay installing long overdue pollution controls,” said Earthjustice attorney Michael Hiatt. “Modern pollution controls at Cholla, Coronado, and Apache will result in cleaner air for Arizonans to breathe and will help restore the iconic scenic views at the Grand Canyon and other natural areas.”
“Despite the promises of the 1977 Clean Air Act, 18 prized national parks have spent decades living in the shadow of the haze caused by air pollution from these plants,” said NPCA Arizona Senior Program Manager Kevin Dahl. “The cleanup plan the EPA has set in motion is rightfully sustained by this decision and once enforced will be an important turning point for those iconic places, by clearing the air and restoring the health and beauty these national parks deserve.”
“Reducing pollution at three of our state’s dirtiest coal plants is way past due,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Moving forward with limiting these emissions protects both the skies of our iconic national parks and wilderness areas and our health.”
For decades, nitrogen emissions from coal-burning power plants have been a major source of harmful haze in this region, clouding the air and views in economically important national parks. Air pollution from the power plants also causes significant harm to public health, including nearby American Indian communities.
Nitrogen oxide reacts with other compounds to form small particles that penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs. It is also a raw ingredient in the formation of ground-level ozone, which leads to asthma attacks, respiratory problems, lung damage, and even premature death.
Earthjustice represents National Parks Conservation Association and Sierra Club in the Ninth Circuit litigation over EPA’s regional haze requirements at Cholla, Coronado, and Apache.