ARIZONA NEWS

Environmental groups threaten lawsuit over Arizona, Utah air quality

Jan 3, 2019, 6:45 PM
(Twitter Photo/@MattPaceWeather)...
(Twitter Photo/@MattPaceWeather)
(Twitter Photo/@MattPaceWeather)

PHOENIX — A coalition of environmental groups filed a notice of intent to sue on Thursday, warning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency it must hold Utah and Arizona accountable for missing deadlines to submit plans to clean up air pollution.

The notice asks that Arizona be held accountable for missing its deadline for an air quality plan for Pinal County.

EPA spokesman Richard Mylott didn’t return an email and phone call seeking comment Thursday. His message said he was out of the office because of the government shutdown. Arizona Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Erin Jordan declined comment, saying she can’t comment on potential litigation.

The groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, filed the notice as the first step to legally challenge the EPA, said Robert Ukeiley, the organization’s senior attorney. The EPA now has two months to act or a lawsuit will be filed, he said.

The announcement came just as a new layer of dirty air settled in over Salt Lake City in the latest winter inversion, a phenomenon in Utah’s urban corridor caused by weather and geography.

Inversions hover over Salt Lake City as cold, stagnant air settles in the bowl-shaped mountain basins, trapping automotive and other emissions that have no way of escaping to create a brown, murky haze.

Doctors warn that breathing the polluted air can cause lung problems and other health concerns, especially for pregnant women and people with respiratory issues.

The legal filing comes a day after Utah’s air quality board approved the plan it was supposed to submit last summer. Utah Air Quality Director Bryce Bird said the plan was delayed because of technical issues with the model being used, but should be submitted to the EPA in the coming weeks. That should prevent the filing of the actual lawsuit, he said.

The Utah plan lays out actions implemented in recent years, including a requirement that only environmentally friendly water heaters and certain consumer products such as hair spray and nail polish be sold. It also details an existing ban on wood burning on the worst air quality days and a requirement that chain burger restaurants add equipment to limit pollution when using contained ovens, or broilers.

Additionally, the plan explains how an estimated $98 million will be spent by private companies and the U.S. government to add emission-reducing equipment at refineries and rocket propelling manufacturers and replace old boilers at Hill Air Force Base, Bird said.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement that officials recognize the need to improve air quality, which is why he recommended $100 million in his latest budget for the issue.

The state’s air quality issues could get a new round of scrutiny if Salt Lake City is awarded the 2030 Winter Olympics. A decision by the International Olympic Committee is expected in several years.

Deeda Seed, a field campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, said residents are grateful that many Utah officials take the issue seriously but said the results are lacking. The coalition that also includes the Center for Environmental Health and the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment wants the EPA to issue a formal notice that Utah and Arizona missed the deadlines.

“This is really about holding the EPA accountable for the job it’s supposed to do to protect our air,” Seed said. “This about bringing attention to this issue. This is a critical time for us.”

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Katie Hobbs speaks to supporters at a campaign rally on Nov. 6, 2022, in Tucson. (Photo by John Moo...
KTAR.com

Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s other winners to be inaugurated Jan. 5

Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs will become Arizona's first Democratic governor in 14 years when she is inaugurated in a Jan. 5 ceremony.
13 hours ago
(Arizona Humane Society Photo)...
KTAR.com

5 metro Phoenix animal shelters participating in 10-day reduced fee adoption event

Five metro Phoenix animal shelters are taking part in Bissell Pet Foundation's 10-day reduced fee adoption event.
13 hours ago
Montel Alexander (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)...
KTAR.com

Man accused of killing ex-girlfriend in Phoenix after threatening her family

A suspected Phoenix gang member is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend after threatening her family and kidnapping a friend while trying to find her.
13 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Senator Mark Kelly)...
KTAR.com

Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly wants answers on how DHS will handle end of Title 42

U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly said he's expecting to hear back from Homeland Security soon addressing continuing issues about the impending termination of Title 42 border-crossing restrictions.
13 hours ago
Activists in this file photo rally outside the Arizona Capitol in June, 2022, after the U.S. Suprem...
Haley Smilow | Cronkite News

Judges grill both sides in hearing about Arizona abortion laws

Arizona Court of Appeals judges quizzed attorneys Wednesday as they tried to figure out how, or if, they can square competing abortion laws.
13 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Arizona State University Police Department)...
KTAR.com

Suspect in custody after shots fired on ASU campus in Tempe

One person is in custody after shots were fired on the grounds of Arizona State University in Tempe early Thursday, campus police said.
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Environmental groups threaten lawsuit over Arizona, Utah air quality