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National Park Service Cracks Down On Emissions
National Parks Service


Capitol Reef National Park is located in south-central Utah, the heart of red rock country. It’s been called a hidden treasure, featuring cliffs, domes and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold—a geologic wrinkle on the earth that extends almost 100 miles. But according to the National Parks Service, the view of the park could be better.

The agency is pressing Utah environmental regulators to crack down on emissions at two coal-fired power plants to improve air quality and views in the state’s five national parks. Three-fourths of the time, the haze mars these views.

Rocky Mountain Power Spokesperson David Eskelsen  said the company agrees with the state’s proposal, but added that the measures they have taken are yielding better results that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency originally required.

“(Rocky Mountain Power’s) position is that it’s already made significant investments in the two power plants—the Huntington and Hunter power plants—which have greatly reduced nitrogen oxide emissions,” Eskelsen said.

The updates have also reduced sulfur dioxide and particulate emissions, which contribute to the haze. These changes took place five years ago, and Eskelsen said the company is now using more renewable energy as well.

Rocky Mountain Power produces about 80 percent of Utah’s energy. The energy mix consists of 60 percent coal, 14 percent natural gas, 9 percent renewable energy and 5 percent hydroelectric energy.

“Back in the mid-1980s the company was probably more than 85 percent coal,” Eskelsen said. “We expect that transition away from coal to continue. By 2025, we expect that percentage of coal to be less than 50 percent.”

As part of a 2003 piece of legislation, states are required to show reasonable, regular progress on reducing emissions. The goal is for the U.S. to have natural visibility conditions by 2064. Though Rocky Mountain Power gone beyond what the EPA required in the past, the National Parks Service still wants to see more results.