WildEarth seeks EPA decision on particulate emissions in seven states

WildEarth Guardians on Oct. 29 petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for new rules that would impact everything from power plant to coal mine particulate matter emissions in 22 areas in seven western states, including Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming.

“Here in the west, we need the EPA to step up and rein in out of control particulate pollution,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians, in an Oct. 29 statement. “These dirty skies are not only dangerous, they’re a disturbing sign that we lack the safeguards needed to ensure everyone is protected.”

Air quality monitoring data for the 22 areas shows public health standards limiting particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter, known as PM-10, are being violated, the environmental group said. Under the Clean Air Act, if an area violates any ambient air quality standard, the EPA is required to ensure states clean up the air pollution. Despite violating PM-10 standards, the EPA has yet to put the 22 areas on the path to clean up, the group added.

The areas they said are violating PM-10 standards, by state, include:

  • Arizona: Ajo, Rillito, Nogales, and Yuma.
  • Colorado: Alamosa, Durango, Grand Junction, Lamar, and Pagosa Springs.
  • Idaho: Boise.
  • New Mexico: Albuquerque, Anthony, Chaparral, Deming, Las Cruces, Sunland Park.
  • Oklahoma: Tulsa.
  • Utah: Utah County
  • Wyoming: Campbell County, Laramie, Lincoln County, and Sweetwater County.

Under the Clean Air Act, if an area violates PM-10 standards, the EPA is required to designate the area as “nonattainment,” which triggers deadlines for states to clean up the air pollution. Where an area that is already designated as “nonattainment” violates PM-10 air quality standards, the EPA must reclassify its designation as “Serious,” which imposes more stringent requirements.

In this case, Guardians called for 16 areas to be designated as “nonattainment” and for six additional areas to be reclassified as “Serious” nonattainment areas. The sources of PM-10 pollution in these areas vary, but include dirt and dust blown from disturbed lands, coal mining operations, coal-fired power plants, dirt roads, traffic, and other combustion sources, the group said.

In Wyoming, for example, coal mining is the predominant cause of PM-10 violations, including in Campbell County, where the nation’s largest coal strip mines in the Powder River Basin are located.

WildEarth Guardians petitioned the EPA under the Administrative Procedure Act, a federal law that provides any citizen the right to petition the government to issue a rule. In this case, Guardians petitioned the EPA to issue a rule to ensure clean up of PM-10 pollution. The petition calls on the EPA to respond within 90 days.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.