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Groups promise lawsuit against EPA over lack of air pollution enforcement

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Eric Galatas

(Wyoming News Service) Environmental groups filed a notice of intent this week to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over the agency's failure to enforce the Regional Haze Rule under the Clean Air Act.

The rule aims to protect national parks and wilderness areas in Wyoming and across the nation from air pollution reducing visibility.

Rob Joyce, energy organizer for the Wyoming chapter of the Sierra Club, said pressing the EPA to do its job will also help limit the number of days people with respiratory problems have to stay inside.

"Reducing and eventually eliminating haze pollution will improve public health, because the same pollution that muddies the skies also harms our bodies," Joyce asserted. "Reducing haze will reduce the number of yellow, orange and red air-quality days."

An EPA official said he was not able to comment on pending litigation, but noted public comments are being taken until this Friday on the agency's proposal to deny a request made by Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon to delay plans to reduce more than 3,000 tons of pollution from two units of PacifiCorp's Jim Bridger Power Plant by the end of this year.

The plant, south of Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, is Wyoming's number one polluter and the nation's third-biggest source of haze pollution.

Joyce contended the state of Wyoming and PacifiCorp know they are violating clean-air rules, and if the agency charged with enforcing the Clean Air Act does not hold states accountable, his group and some 38 others are prepared to force the issue in federal court.

"We understand that the EPA is trying to resolve the issues at the Jim Bridger power plant," Joyce acknowledged. "But what we need them to do is to fulfill its obligation to protect clean air from harmful pollution."

Joyce added getting the EPA to enforce the Clean Air Act also will help states across the West avoid year-round wildfire seasons and other impacts of a warming planet. Haze pollution, mostly from burning fossil fuels, currently obscures the views in 90% of America's national parks.

"Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite," Joyce outlined. "These same sources of pollution are also contributing to increasing wildfire severity, drought severity, to climate change, all on top of impairing visibility in our parks."