Cue Wyoming for EPA to give the Regional Haze Rule more teeth

Wyoming is among several states currently updating their plan to address regional haze, but local environmental groups say the plan is not enough.

More than two decades ago, the Environmental Protection Agency created the Regional Haze Rule to improve air quality in designated areas, including national parks, by reducing haze, or the cocktail of air pollution that reduces visibility. According to the EPA, poor air quality has reduced average visibility in the West by as much as 100 miles, and the effects of that pollution can be far from its source.

Shannon Anderson, attorney for the Powder River Basin Resource Council, said coal-fired power plants in Wyoming are major polluters.

“And many of these coal-fired power plants are operating unchecked because of pollution that impacts public health,” she said, “in addition to impacts on national parks.”

Wyoming is in EPA Region 8, where 75 percent of haze pollution comes from fossil fuel power generation, according to the National Parks Conservation Association. It is also home to seven of the country’s 50 largest haze polluters. The Jim Bridger coal-fired power plant in Sweetwater County, the third-largest polluter, released a plan last month to extend its operations until 2039.

Rob Joyce, director of the Sierra Club’s Wyoming chapter, said he advocates for the EPA to give the Regional Haze Rule more teeth.

“If the market changes in a few years, or if politics changes,” he said, “I wouldn’t be so confident that what’s in the plan today will be in the plan tomorrow.”

The EPA is expected to make a decision on Wyoming’s proposal this summer.


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