Colorado delegation signs letter of support for state regional haze plan

In a rare show of unity, all nine members of Colorado’s congressional delegation submitted a joint letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Lisa Jackson recently, urging her approval of a state plan regarding the reduction of regional haze.

Coal-based plants like Tri-State’s Craig Station are targeted in EPA’s regional haze rulemaking process.

In 2011, the State Implementation Plan (SIP) to reduce regional haze in existing Class I areas in Colorado was approved by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission and submitted to the EPA by Governor John Hickenlooper.

The SIP is intended to meet the requirements of the EPA’s Regional Haze Rule and the Clean Air Act. Under the rule, states are required to set periodic goals for improving visibility in 156 federal Class I areas, 12 of which are in Colorado, and include certain national parks and wilderness areas.

As they work to reach these goals, states must develop implementation plans that contain enforceable measures and strategies for reducing visibility-impairing pollution.

As required by the Clean Air Act, all states must submit SIP revisions to the EPA for approval. If the EPA finds that a state has failed to make a required SIP submittal or if the agency disapproves the submittal, the EPA must issue a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) within two years to fill the regulatory gap.

For Tri-State and other utilities, a FIP carries the potential of significantly higher costs as compared to the proposed SIP.

In developing the SIP, Colorado followed an “exemplary and inclusive stakeholder approach” resulting in bipartisan support that “. . . speaks to its balanced and thoughtful approach to reducing harmful pollution,” according to the letter.

Paul Griffin, Tri-State senior federal government relations advisor, played a large role in acquiring the support from Colorado’s two senators and seven representatives.

“It’s very unusual to have such broad, bipartisan support on an issue, especially environmental,” said Griffin. “It just reinforces the fact that this is a state process and Colorado doesn’t need federal intervention.”

Additional endorsements of the SIP include a number of conservation organizations and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. Under a consent decree, the EPA is required to make a decision regarding Colorado’s SIP by March 2012.

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