Court stays EPA haze plan for Wyo.

By Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter
— September 10, 2014

(Contact E&E for republication permissions.)

Steam rises from smokestacks at the Wyodak power complex outside Gillette, Wyoming. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)
Steam rises from smokestacks at the Wyodak power complex outside Gillette, Wyoming. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

A federal court has halted U.S. EPA’s plan to curb haze-causing pollution in Wyoming until legal challenges by the state and industry are resolved.

Wyoming had proposed less stringent and cheaper pollution control technologies at five coal-fired power units in a plan to reduce nitrogen oxides linked to regional haze. In its lawsuit, the state argues that EPA acted arbitrarily when the agency earlier this year rejected the 2011 plan for those five units because of technical errors and replaced it with a more expensive federal plan (Greenwire, Sept. 5).

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday granted the state’s request to stay the federal plan over opposition by environmental groups.

The court said it based its decision on the likelihood that the challenges to EPA’s plan will be successful and that the parties in the lawsuit would be harmed absent a stay. The court also granted requests by Basin Electric Power Cooperative and PacifiCorp to extend the deadline for compliance at four of the units for the duration of the stay.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) applauded the court’s decision in a statement yesterday.

“Wyoming has a solid and effective plan. The rejection of Wyoming’s plan by the EPA was wrong,” Mead said. “This decision sends a message to the federal government and affirms Wyoming’s leadership in these important areas.”

Although nitrogen oxides contribute less to haze pollution than sulfur dioxide and particulate matter in Wyoming, they are ingredients in the formation of haze at Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

Environmental groups have argued that EPA’s plan is too weak and have asked the court to compel the agency to write a plan requiring more stringent emissions controls.

“Under the final rule, Wyoming will not make reasonable progress toward eliminating its contribution to human-caused haze pollution,” said the Powder River Basin Resource Council, National Parks Conservation Association and Sierra Club in an August court filing.

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