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Emissions review an important opportunity for cleaner air for Arizona
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Emissions review an important opportunity for cleaner air for Arizona

  • The Cholla Power Plant, near Joseph City, Ariz., in 2010.
    snowpeak/FlickrThe Cholla Power Plant, near Joseph City, Ariz., in 2010.

Catalina Ross is the Southern Arizona energy program coordinator for the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Once in a decade, as stated by the Clean Air Act, each state is required to assess airshed pollution in the national parks and wilderness areas and then update their Regional Haze State Implementation Plan to control those pollutants and their impacts and submit it to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Specifically, they are to analyze impacts on people, nature, and visibility, which gets reduced by the haze from industrial emissions and wildfire smoke.

In Arizona, these emissions include nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter, which impact the health of all Arizonans, but first and worst the people immediately surrounding polluting facilities, often low-income and marginalized communities.

As some of the worst sources of haze-causing toxins and greenhouse gas pollution in the country, facilities that burn coal and gas are meant to be regulated and held accountable in these plans.

In Arizona’s draft plan, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality examined Tucson Electric Power’s units at the coal-burning Springerville Generating Station and their gas-fired Sundt Generating Station, as well as the Rillito Cement Manufacturing Facility. ADEQ is tasked with regulating harmful emissions in the SIP, which can help in the just and equitable transition of our energy systems away from fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, following public input and technical feedback in drafting, the final plan ADEQ submitted in August did not include all of the state’s relevant facilities (omitting some of Arizona’s worst polluters), nor did it require much improvement to the sites it did include.

Now, the EPA will decide whether to approve or revise the plan and whether it will address the crucial role of clean air in ecosystems and visibility within our treasured public lands, health impacts of breathing toxic air, due process, and environmental injustice.

ADEQ also just held a public hearing for a proposed air quality permit revision at Springerville that guesses at emission limits prior to the SIP finalization contrary to the Clean Air Act – it is unclear why.

Are they intentionally skirting the proper SIP process and allowing for more emissions into the air?

This regional haze planning process is a rare and vital chance to clean up the air for Arizonans while lowering our state’s emissions that worsen climate change.

Our communities want to see emissions reductions of the emergency scale our rapidly heating climate requires. By setting lax requirements for coal plants and not properly considering the impacts to our parks and wildlands, ADEQ is abdicating its responsibility to protect public health and the environment.

It is time for the EPA to step in and do what ADEQ should have – to do as the Clean Air Act mandates and clear up harmful haze for Arizonans.

Catalina Ross is the Southern Arizona energy program coordinator for the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club.

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