A Kennecott proposal to build $200 million worth of new air-pollution controls at the Magna smelter drew skeptical comments from environmentalists in a press conference Wednesday.

But a Kennecott spokesman responded that the company is not asking the state to ease pollution standards, and that the proposal includes more control equipment than originally advocated by state regulators.Nina Dougherty, acting chairwoman of the Salt Lake County Clean Air Coalition, said the group has questions about the copper company's proposal. "We're of course pleased Kennecott is proposing to build a double-contact acid plant. This is something that should have been done years ago," she said.

The plant would send stack gases through acid twice, to remove sulfur compounds. Sulfur dioxide is a contributor to PM10, the tiniest particulates, because the gas changes to particles once it is released into the atmosphere.

Dougherty remains skeptical of Kennecott, charging that in a tracer study that was supposed to show the destination of its PM10 pollution, the company did all it could to "skew" the information. In the past, Kennecott has stated what it would do to protect the environment, yet it never turned out to be enough, Dougherty said.

In this case, what Kennecott proposes is not as much control as the state wanted in its draft implementation plan to control PM10, she said. The Kennecott plan would allow nearly the same amount of emissions as are occurring now, according to the coalition's figures.

She said that last month, a release of concentrated sulfur dioxide and sulfur trioxide "impacted the safety and health of travelers on the interstate highway," I-80.

Scott Endicott, a coalition trustee, said Kennecott proposes to make "a whopping 7.5 percent improvement. Aren't we proud?"

"We, the Salt Lake County Clean Air Coalition, feel the guidelines should not be compromised lest we wish to loose the same old games," said Randall Doyle, a member of the coalition. "We do not want to look back in 20 years and see that we in Salt Lake made an expensive mistake both for our health and our pocketbook."

James Mausberg, of a University of Utah environmental group called the Wasatch Greens, said that in two weeks the organization gathered 1,200 signatures of U. students favoring the state's original plan.

"We are tired of silently watching Kennecott rape this region of its clean air resources while getting nothing in return," he said.

Gregory H. Boyce, the director of government and public affairs for Kennecott, said the company's consultants concluded that only 2 percent of fine particulate pollution in Salt Lake County is attributable to the smelter. Yet it is willing to spend $200 million to improve pollution control.

"The claim by the Clean Air Coalition that Kennecott is seeking to ease emission standards stems from confusion about terminology, i.e., comparing apples to oranges," he said.

The amount of captured fugitive gases being released through Kennecott's stack was underestimated by the state in its draft plan, he said. "Actual emission data has now been provided to the BAC (Utah Bureau of Air Quality) to correct these calculations.

"The BAC has informed Kennecott that they have reviewed and found acceptable the actual data and are in the process of updating their model."

Boyce added that the proposed maximum emissions from the stack of 5,700 pounds per hour is 70 percent lower than the smelter's current operating permit.

"It is also 40 percent lower than that measured during the tracer study," he said.

"In summary, Kennecott's proposed plan, far from involving the relaxation of standards, actually represents a substantial reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions."

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(Additional information)

Pollution claims

Nina Dougherty, Salt Lake County Clean Air Coalition:

- A study to show the destination of fine-particulate pollution from Kennecott's smelter was skewed by the company.

- The Kennecott proposal to the state would allow nearly the same amount of emissions as are occurring now.

- A release of concentrated sulfur dioxide and sulfur trioxide last month affected motorists on I-80.

Gregory H. Boyce, Kennecott executive:

- The company's consultants concluded that only 2 percent of fine-particulate pollution in Salt Lake County is attributable to the smelter. Yet Kennecott is willing to spend $200 million to improve pollution control.

- The proposed emission standard is 70 percent lower than the smelter's current operating permit.