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Lawsuit Alleges EPA Foot-Dragging on Power Plant Clean-Up



March 20, 2012

PHOENIX - Skies over several National Parks will be clearer and people in the Four Corners region will be healthier if a federal lawsuit filed Monday is successful. The National Parks Conservation Association and the Navajo environmental group Diné CARE are suing the EPA to speed up the retrofitting of two huge coal-fired power plants with the best-available pollution-control technology.

Kevin Dahl, Arizona program manager for the NPCA, says the lawsuit targets the Navajo Generating Station near Page and the Four Corners Plant in northwest New Mexico.

"The Clean Air Act does require the Environmental Protection Agency to do this. There's no clear specificity on timing, but it's way overdue, so we're asking that they do it within a reasonable time frame."

The lawsuit says the two power plants continue to harm the health of millions of people who visit and live in the Four Corners area, while producing haze that obscures the views at numerous National Parks and wilderness areas.

Both of the power plants are located on the Navajo Nation, where Diné CARE volunteer Lori Goodman says emissions are having a dramatic negative effect on the health of residents.

"Shiprock Indian Hospital: their number one admittance for emergency room visits is for respiratory problems. And asthma has just gone through the roof."

Part of the power produced by the Navajo Generating Station runs the pumps for the Central Arizona Project, which provides water to residents of Phoenix and Tucson. Goodman says it's a simple matter of fairness that the EPA should act quickly to protect the health of the Navajo people.

"The people that live right around Navajo Generating Station don't even have electricity or running water, and the sure thing that they're getting is bad health."

Kevin Dahl says reducing pollution that degrades the priceless views in the Four Corners region will not only improve public health, but will also benefit the local tourism economy.

"When you go to the Grand Canyon, you expect to see a magnificent sight. Or go to Bryce Canyon and see the views there, or go to Petrified Forest and get the experience of the huge open spaces of the West. When it's diminished by the air pollution from the Navajo power plant, that's a huge impact."

Since both plants are low-cost power producers, Dahl says the cost of installing the "best available" retrofit technology can be absorbed while keeping electric prices in line with other power plants.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ
 

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