The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plan to “improve air quality and visibility” in famous parks, such as Yellowstone, could cost three industrial plants in Montana up to $90 million dollars in upgrades. The EPA says the Colstrip coal power plant, Ash Grove cement plant near Montana City, and Holcim cement plant would have five years to make the appropriate upgrades.
"The Environmental Protection Agency plan would clear the air in the Big Sky State of about 15,000 tons annually of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides," the Great Falls Tribune reports. "Those pollutants react with the atmosphere to create haze."
Of the three plants that would be affected by the new regulations, Colstrip would get hit the hardest: the coal power plant will have to spend approximately $80 million to clean the emissions from its stacks. Colstrip operator PPL Montana says the new regulations are far too costly and for only “marginal improvements.” Spokesman David Hoffman said the visibility improvements would be "non-perceptible."
"We're moving very quickly in a short period of time at huge costs to obtain a result that's pretty questionable," Hoffman said. "It's going to be a challenge to the plant."
But there are some exempt from the new regulations. For instance, the coal plant PPL's Corette in Billings, MT, isn’t required to make any upgrades.
“The EPA was prodded into action by a legal challenge in part by environmentalists who sued the agency to set deadlines to follow through on haze rules adopted in 1999,” the Great Falls Tribune reports. “Two of the groups involved, WildEarth Guardians and the Montana Environmental Information Center, said the agency's proposal does not go far enough.”
Indeed, even with these new regulations, spokesmen for the environmentalist groups are still dissatisfied with the EPA.
"People might gasp a little bit and say that's a lot of money but you have to look at how much these companies are profiting off these facilities. It dwarfs these costs," said Anne Hedges with the Montana Environmental Information Center.
The new EPA proposal could become final after a 60-day public comment period, the Tribune reports. Public hearings hosted by the EPA are scheduled for May 15 in Helena, MT, and May 16 in Billings.
"[T]he reduction in pollution would have spinoff benefits to public health, particularly among children," EPA spokesman Rich Mylottt in Denver told the Tribune in an emailed statement.