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EPA’s Curb on Air Pollution Upheld

March 26, 1993

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A federal appeals court upheld the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to improve visibility in the Grand Canyon by reducing pollutants from an Arizona power plant.

Area water districts, which would have to pay a substantial part of the cleanup cost in higher electric rates, claimed the restrictions would achieve minimal gains at excessive costs.

But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Thursday the EPA’s rules would make ″reasonable progress toward the national goal of remedying visibility impairment at the Grand Canyon.″

The ruling will have ″a dramatic impact on the Grand Canyon,″ said Patrick Raher, lawyer for the Grand Canyon Trust and the Wilderness Society.

Marvin Cohen, lawyer for the water districts, said they would review the possibility of a further appeal.

The EPA, in a 1991 order, required a 90 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions from the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station at Page, Ariz., 12 miles from the canyon.

The agency estimated that would create a 7 percent improvement in average wintertime visibility above the rim of the canyon.

The scrubbing equipment would cost $430 million, and ongoing costs would be $89.6 million a year, the court said.

But the water districts pointed to another study which forecast only a 2 percent improvement.

They argued the EPA was illegally imposing expensive restrictions without an accurate determination of the plant’s share of responsibility for air pollution.

A 1989 National Park Service draft report attributed 70 percent of the sulfates in the canyon to the Navajo plant during a wintertime test period, the court said. A National Academy of Sciences evaluation found some flaws in that report but concluded that the plant ″contributed significantly to haze″ at some times during the period.

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