Grand County Commissioners voted to approve a letter to the Utah Division of Air Quality asking that coal-fired power plants in Emery County be required to install “scrubbing” technology to reduce the amount of pollution sent into the air. The letter is being submitted during a public comment period that is currently open on the Regional Haze State Implementation Plan.

In 1999 the Environmental Protection Agency created the Regional Haze Rule, which calls for state and federal agencies to work together to improve visibility in specified national parks and wilderness areas, including Arches and Canyonlands national parks. The Regional Haze State Implementation Plan is part of meeting that goal. 

“People come to our home from across the world to take in the vastness and intricacies of this sandstone desert,” Grand County’s letter reads. “On clear days you can see hundreds of miles across the vibrant fractured landscape. At night, you can see the Milky Way, far off galaxies, moons of Jupiter, and a sky so peppered with stars it is mesmerizing.”

Two coal-fired plants in neighboring Emery County—Huntington and Hunter—are two of the top three air pollution sources in the state, according to the DAQ. Grand County’s letter asks the DAQ to require these plants to implement selective catalytic reduction technology, which could reduce haze-causing pollutants, particularly nitrogen oxide.

“The current state plan has been critiqued in comments from both the National Park Service and the EPA for not providing sufficient rationale and analysis to support rejecting these control measures,” the letter says.

Commissioner Trisha Hedin opposed the letter, saying she felt it was too imposing on a neighboring county. She pointed out that both plants in question are slated for retirement, and that the communities surrounding them are struggling to slowly transition away from the coal industry.

“I would feel better if we did something like this in conjunction with other counties,” Hedin said. “I just don’t feel okay with us telling others what to do.”

Commissioner Kevin Walker was absent for the vote; commissioners Sarah Stock, Mary McGann, Jacques Hadler, Evan Clapper, and Josie Kovash voted in favor of sending the letter.