EPA haze plan draws ire, support at hearing


EPA haze plan draws ire, support at hearing

18 July 2013

published by www.wyomingbusinessreport.com

USA — Gov. Matt Mead went toe-to-toe with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday during an additional public hearing for the EPA’s regional haze plan during an extended public-comment window.

Mead has been vocal in his criticism of the plan, saying most of the region’s haze comes from wildfires, not coal production, and that new $1 billion controls with requisite $100 million upgrades in subsequent years for coal-fired plants would do little to change air quality in the Cowboy State.

The EPA last year accepted part of a state plan for regional haze standards while saying the control on coal-fired plants was not sufficient, moving the plan up in part to federal implementation.

“We modeled that the change is significant and cost-effective enough that it should have been chosen instead of what the state submitted in the [state implementation] plan,” Carl Daly, director of the Air Quality Program at the Region 8 Environmental Protection Agency in Denver told the Business Report last August.

But during the public comment period for the draft federal plan, Mead, the Wyoming congressional delegation and others submitted letters of concern. Among concerns is that costs of the upgrades will filter down to consumers through rate hikes while doing little to clear the air.

“I can’t think of a worse way to hurt those who are lower income or middle income and to make no difference,” the Associated Press quoted Mead as saying during yesterday’s hearing. “We are not talking about a health standard here, we’re talking about a visibility standard.”

Mead continued to argue that the move seemed to target the coal industry, an important component of Wyoming’s economy.

Others testified against the plan, though one Cheyenne resident came forward to support the stricter federal implementation, saying the state should use its energy taxes to move the state toward more renewable power.

The Powder River Basin Resource Council, a conservation and family agriculture organization, also issued a statement yesterday to voice its support of the EPA standards in light of the hearing.

“Wyoming is a national leader in coal production, but we shouldn’t be a leader in coal pollution,” said Shannon Anderson of the Powder River Basin Resource Council. “Our experts have identified serious flaws with [the] Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s environmental analysis, which has led to improvements in the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans.”

Anderson sided with the EPA, saying the state requirements simply didn’t meet federal requirements under the Clean Air Act.

“While we would rather see Wyoming take the lead, we appreciate the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to ensure that Wyoming’s fleet of coal-fired power plants is not left with second-rate pollution controls,” she said, adding that Wyoming should follow the lead of other utilities across the nation that are installing “cost-effective, modern technologies to reduce coal-plant pollution and safeguard health and the environment.”

The final public hearing will be held in Casper July 26 at the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s meeting room. That hearing will start at 1 p.m and go to 5 p.m. and resume from 6-8 p.m.

The EPA on July 8 also announced that it was extending the public comment period to 30 days beyond the Casper meeting. It was scheduled to come to a close Aug. 9.

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