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February 12, 2013

Clean Air Measures Will Protect Families, Help Move Arizona Beyond Coal

Arizona coal

Toxic air pollution from the Apache, Coronado, and Cholla coal plants kills dozens and hospitalizes hundreds each year. Health expenses linked to these plants surpass $300 million each year. Now the Environmental Protection Agency has announced plans to raise standards and enforce safeguards that will let Arizona families breathe a little easier.

The safeguards will put in place equipment used in more than 200 other coal plants across the U.S. and will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from the three coal plants by nearly 90 percent.

"These protections will limit dangerous emissions that pollute skies over Arizona's pristine national parks, including Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest, better protecting public health and saving Arizonans millions in health costs," Grand Canyon Chapter Director Sandy Bahr said in a statement to the state legislature. "These standards are 35 years in the making, resulting from 1977 revisions of the Clean Air Act, which aimed at reducing pollution over America's most pristine public lands."

The EPA also said it intends to clean up the Navajo Generating Station, located only 12 miles from the Grand Canyon, which accounts for more than $120 million in health care costs each year, according to the Clean Air Task Force.

NGS polluting Grand Canyon Jan 2009Arizona now faces a fork in the road, and state leaders are convening this week to weigh its options. It will have to decide whether to resist pollution controls designed to protect communities or invest in forward-thinking clean energy that will generate jobs.

The Bureau of Land Management estimates that renewable potential on public lands in Arizona could create more than 2,500 MW of solar and wind on public lands alone. This commitment could create more than 16,000 jobs over 20 years. (pdf)

Energy providers have coasted on easy profits for decades while polluting without accountability. Transition plans to clean renewable projects should include investing in the workforce. While coal power continues to wobble, clean energy continues its climb into prominence.

"There are a lot of uncertainties that need to be resolved, but we do know that continuing to rely on coal-fired power plants risks our health, our national icons, such as Grand Canyon, and will only get costlier. Coal is already being out-competed in the energy market," Bahr said.

(Top photo: Rob Smith/Sierra Club. Bottom photo: Ted Grussing/Grand Canyon Trust.)

-- Brian Foley

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