EPA targets wrong cause of haze in Grand Canyon

The EPA is targeting the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station (NGS) in regard to its emissions of nitrogen oxides the EPA claims cause most of the haze in the Grand Canyon. The EPA is insisting that NGS install “selective catalytic reduction” to control nitrogen oxides at an added cost of $48 million per year, even though, just two years ago, the plant installed devices to control nitrogen oxides. This EPA action is of particular concern to Southern Arizona because NGS supplies the electricity to run pumps that provide Southern Arizona with water via the Central Arizona Project Canal.

In the chart below, compiled from data produced by the Western Regional Air Partnership (part of the Western Governor’s Association), we see that nitrogen oxide emissions from electrical generating stations represent only about 1 percent of the constituents of haze in the Grand Canyon. Most haze is a combination of soot, dust and sulfates.


In the pie chart above, we see that nitrates constitute about 8% of haze. The bar chart, if it is to proportional scale, indicates that nitrates from power plants (see asterisk) comprise about 13% of total nitrates; therefore, nitrate contribution to total haze is about 1% (8% of 13% = 1%). See here for a clearer view of the chart. The EPA is, therefore, imposing a very expensive requirement to target less than one percent of the problem. This seems to be part of the Obama Administration’s general war on coal.

William Yeatman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute notes that:

“Regional Haze is an aesthetic regulation pursuant to the Clean Air Act. Its purpose is to improve visibility at federal National Parks and Wilderness Areas. It is the only aesthetic regulation in the Clean Air Act. This point bears repeating: Unlike every other regulation established by the Clean Air Act, Regional Haze has nothing to do with public health.

“Another hallmark of the Regional Haze regulation is State primacy. Whereas EPA is the lead decision-maker when it comes to setting public health standards pursuant to the Clean Air Act, the Congress intended for the States to render determinations on Regional Haze.

“After countless hours of deliberation by State officials and significant public participation, Arizona submitted a Regional Haze implementation plan to the EPA in February 2011. Despite the Congress’s intention that States take the lead on Regional Haze decision-making, EPA Region 9 in mid-July disapproved Arizona’s submission, and proposed a federal implementation plan in its stead.”

In addition to harassing the Navajo Generating Station near Page, Arizona, the EPA found fault with Arizona’s proposed regulations for control of nitrogen oxides (NOx) for the Apache Generating Station near Cochise, Arizona, for Cholla Power Plant near Joseph City, Arizona, and for the Coronado Generating Station near St. Johns, Arizona.

There is an interesting coincidence. An environmental group, the National Parks Conservation Association, has been running hit pieces on the Navajo Generating Station. Our new Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, has long been a board member of that organization (but her name has recently been removed from its list). It’s just a small world.

The EPA is holding some hearings in Arizona on its proposed haze regulations. A meeting will be held in Tucson, Friday, November 15, 6-9pm, at Proscenium Theatre, Pima Community College West Campus, Center for the Arts Building, 2 miles west of I-10 on St. Mary’s Road.

Stop by an ask the EPA why they are proposing regulations that will add $1.1 billion in costs to your water and power bills with no perceptible benefit to visibility.