SALT LAKE CITY — Protecting the clear vistas of the state's five national parks is part of a regional haze-control program now under refinement by Utah air quality control regulators.
Most of Utah's efforts were approved earlier this year by the Environmental Protection Agency, but federal officials want the state to work with PacifiCorp to ensure that control of nitrous oxide emissions from a pair of power plants is sufficient.
The Utah Division of Air Quality has been meeting with the utility company to ensure technological upgrades are in place at the Huntington and Hunter plants in Emery County.
Unlike other air pollution control programs with standards to protect public health, the regional haze program eyes a long-term "welfare" standard that aims to restore natural conditions to the region of parks in Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah by 2064.
Upgrades have already been completed at all but one power-producing unit at the PacifiCorp plants, state environmental scientist Colleen Delaney told air quality board members in an update meeting Wednesday, with one unit scheduled to have the new technology in place by 2014.
And even though the state relied on the EPA's own nationwide analysis of presumed levels of pollutants from a review of every power plant in the country, Delaney said the federal agency wants Utah to institute emission limits that are "federally enforceable."
"There is no bright line regarding compliance," Delaney said.
Utah's plan has been in the works since the mid-1990s as part of a greater regional effort springing from Grand Canyon National Park but was formalized on a local front in 2003.
Every few years, there are revisions that have to be made and submitted to the EPA for approval. These latest revisions are prompting renewed discussions among Utah regulators and operators of some of the state's oldest power plants.
Matt Pacenza, policy director for HEAL Utah — an environmental group — urged the state to go beyond technology already in place at the Utah power plants and institute even greater controls that would reduce emissions by as much as 90 percent.
Such technology has been around since the mid-1990s and is already being utilized regionally at other power plants in New Mexico and Nevada, he said.
More stringent controls would go beyond addressing regional haze but also be protective of public health.
"We believe it is really, really, really" time to do this, he said.
For now, both the Division of Air Quality and PacifiCorp will work through a new analysis on the emissions, which will be subject to public comment before it is resubmitted to the EPA.
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