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Sierra Club, National Parks organization seek to intervene in Arizona’s case vs. EPA

Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club. (Photo by Josh Coddington/Arizona Capitol Times)

Two environmental activist groups are seeking to intervene in the lawsuit that Arizona filed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over regional haze.

At the core of the issue is the EPA’s rule that would affect the Apache, Cholla and Coronado power plants and could collectively cost Arizona utility companies as much as $1 billion.

In a motion filed with the 9th Circuit Court, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Sierra Club argued that the current parties to the lawsuit don’t adequately represent their interests.

They told the court they have thousands of members in the state that care deeply about air quality and about protecting scenic sites and who regularly visit national parks and wilderness areas.

The motion is rooted in the groups’ claim that Arizona’s challenge “threatens vital environmental and public health gains promised by EPA’s action.”

Sandy Bahr, the local Sierra Club director, told the Arizona Capitol Times that not only is the state late in producing its own plan, but the plan itself is weak.

“It doesn’t do its job under the Clean Air Act and the EPA has the responsibility to ensure the law is enforced,” Bahr said, adding it’s “unconscionable” that the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is trying to stop the EPA.

She added the groups have the right to intervene because they’ve been involved in air quality issues for a long time, including getting the Clean Air Act in place.

ADEQ has argued that EPA’s plan will cost $1 billion to implement even when it won’t produce results that can be discerned by the naked eye when compared to the state’s proposal.

At the root of ADEQ’s objections is its belief that the federal agency is not following the Clean Air Act.

Henry Darwin, the state agency’s director, earlier said the issue is not about public health, but about regional haze – how nitrogen oxide, one of the chemicals that’s responsible for creating brown haze in the skies, affects visibility at the state’s national parks like the Grand Canyon.

He said that’s a crucial difference.

Darwin also insisted that his agency’s actions are guided by sound science.

“It’s not utilities that are going to pay this, by the way. It’s [the] ratepayers, and so we’re talking about the citizens of the state of Arizona that are being asked to pay $1 billion for something that’s not going to cause any impact that you can see with a human eye,” Darwin has said

Additionally, he said both EPA and ADEQ are supposed to take into account the economic impacts of their decisions. “We believe that EPA flat out has not taken economic impacts into account,” Darwin said.

 

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