The U.S. Forest Service determined last summer that air pollution was reducing visibility and increasing degradation from acid rain in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area in northern Colorado's Routt National Forest.
It should come
as no surprise, then, that Colorado forest officials,
environmentalists and air-quality managers - not to mention the
Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service - are
irked about a Utah power plant's recent request to quadruple its
sulfur-dioxide (SO2) emissions.
The Utah Air
Quality Board has already given preliminary approval to the
increase in emissions, most of which would blow into
The Deseret Generation and Transmission
Cooperative wants to increase SO2 emissions from 700 tons per year
to 3,000 tons per year at its coal-fired power plant in Bonanza,
Uintah County, near the Colorado border, about 25 miles south of
Dinosaur National Monument.
At 400 megawatts, the
power plant cooperative serves rural customers in Utah, Colorado,
Wyoming, Nevada and Arizona.
Ken Fisher said the increased emissions permit is necessary because
the 400-megawatt power plant's supply of low-sulfur coal is nearly
But environmentalists say they don't
want an increase in air pollution.
... increase in SO2 emissions at the Bonanza plant is highly likely
to exacerbate visibility degradation and acid (rain) problems in
national parks and wilderness areas in Utah and Colorado," said
Christine Shaver, senior attorney for the Environmental Defense
Fund, which is representing the Sierra Club and the National Parks
and Conservation Association in fighting the emissions
At EDF's request, Utah has extended
the public comment period to May 23. A public hearing will also be
held sometime before May 23.
In that hearing,
state officials are sure to get an earful.
Martin, regional director of the National Parks and Conservation
Association, said her group is concerned that air quality would be
harmed in Dinosaur National Monument and Arches National
She also warned that it would be somewhat
hypocritical for Utah to allow Bonanza to increase its
"This is a time when Utah should be
part of that Grand Canyon Transport Commission to protect the
far-reaching vistas of the Colorado Plateau," Martin said. "It's
clear the kind of recommendation that Utah makes to that process
will include controlling emissions that are upwind from us, like in
California. To ask those states to be good neighbors, we need to be
a good neighbor to states that are downwind to us."
In a letter to the Utah Division of Air Quality,
the Forest Service noted the acid-rain problem in Mount Zirkel and
But Deseret's Fisher said his
company has studied the proposed increases in SO2 and found no
adverse impact in the national parks or in Colorado. He said
Colorado-based power plants "are putting out 10 times as much SO2
than we are ... (Environmentalists) need to turn their attention to
those units in Colorado rather than an imaginary problem in Utah."
Indeed, two power plants in northwestern
Colorado emit 3,000 to 4,000 tons of SO2 each, said Tom Getz,
director of the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division in
Nevertheless, Getz said he is concerned
about the Bonanza plant and its possible impact on Mount Zirkel.
His office and the Region 8 office of the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency are analyzing the proposed SO2
When Bonanza got its permit in 1981,
it was required to meet more stringent requirements under the
Carter administration. It has been relatively easy for Bonanza to
meet those requirements because it burns a low-sulfur coal mined in
Rangely, Colo. That mine, however, has depleted its supplies of the
low-sulfur coal. The higher-sulfur coal will make it impossible for
Bonanza to stay within its permit at present capacity, said
"The only way we could meet the
requirements under the existing permit would be to reduce capacity
of the plant by at least one-third," Fisher said. The Deseret
cooperative, which had to restructure its debt two years ago, could
not withstand such a cutback in generating output, he
"For our economic well-being, we feel we've
got to have this revised permit."
Bonanza is asking for relaxed standards in its permit, the
standards will be no lower than any other power plants currently
operating in the West, Fisher said.
power plants have always operated under these standards (that
Deseret is requesting)," Fisher said. "So we're not asking for
something that is not standard for other coal-fired operators."
The writer works in
Salt Lake City, Utah.
comment on the increased emissions proposal at the Bonanza power
plant, write to Russell Roberts, executive director, Utah Division
of Air Quality, 150 N. 1950 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84114-4820.
Comments are due by May 23. For more information, write to the
Environmental Defense Fund, 1405 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, CO 80302,
or DG&T;, 8722 S. 300 West, Sandy, UT