Reducing emissions of harmful Air pollution ALONG UTAH’S WASATCH FRONT and shrinking Kennecott’s CARBON FOOTPRINT BY 1 million tons EVERY YEAR
Kennecott Utah Copper agreed to shut down its last coal power plant and fulfill its future power needs with 1.5 million megawatt hours of renewable energy certificates purchased from Rocky Mountain Power, including wind power generated in Wyoming. The closure of the 57-year-old Wasatch Front plant will reduce emissions of air pollutants by 6,000 tons annually and shrink the company’s carbon footprint by as much as 65% or more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide a year – the equivalent of 2,218,055,501 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle.
KENNECOTT’S UNIT 4 PLANT WAS THE LAST COAL PLANT ON THE DENSELY POPULATED WASATCH FRONT
Kennecott, a subsidiary of the Rio Tinto mining corporation, installed the very first of its four coal units in Magna, Utah, in 1944. It expanded the plant to include four units to bring the capacity of the station to 175 megawatts of electrical power. Unit 4, added in 1960, was one of the state’s older power plants and the last coal-fired power plant located along Utah’s heavily populated Wasatch Front.
To reduce its emissions of air pollution during the inversions that plague the Wasatch Front, Kennecott stopped using its coal-fired units during the winter in the 1990s. In 2016, Kennecott agreed to retire its three oldest units and eventually convert Unit 4 to cleaner-burning natural gas. Despite these steps, Kennecott’s power generation was contributing significant emissions to the airshed.
The Wasatch Front has some of the worst air pollution in the U.S. and was designated as failing to meet the national health based standard for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in 2009. In 2018, the Wasatch Front was declared in violation of the federal standard for ozone pollution.
Air pollution along Utah’s Wasatch Front threatens public health and the environment. Both ozone and fine particulate matter air pollution cause premature death, heart attacks, strokes, lung disease, diminished lung function, and increased risk of cancers. These air pollutants also result in low birth weights in infants and an upsurge in emergency room visits for treatment of asthma and pulmonary disease. Ozone and fine particulate matter adversely impact animals, impair water quality, and damage plants, including crops.
Since 2009, the Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ) had been developing and revising the PM2.5 State Implementation Plan (SIP) to reduce emissions, improve air quality, and bring the region back into attainment with the federal health standards. The plan must regulate all emissions sources – from businesses and industrial operations to appliances and wood burning – in order to get the Salt Lake Valley back into compliance with air quality standards.
WRA STEPS IN TO SECURE EARLY RETIREMENT
When a version of the SIP was presented to the Utah Air Quality Board for its approval, the plan prevented Kennecott from burning coal in Unit 4 during the winter, but allowed coal burning all other times of the year. WRA argued to the board that the Clean Air Act requires Kennecott to stop burning coal in its plant year-round, not simply in the winter. The board sided with WRA and amended the SIP to prevent Kennecott from using coal in Unit 4 at any time during the year. Shortly after the board’s decision was final, Kennecott announced its decision to forego coal in favor of renewable energy.
Retiring Unit 4 removes 6,000 tons of air pollutants that form ozone and particulate matter from the Wasatch Front airshed annually, and reduces Kennecott’s emissions of greenhouse gases by more than 1 million tons each year.
It’s a real win for the Wasatch Front’s communities, especially children, the elderly, and people with health conditions like asthma, who are particularly vulnerable when they don’t have clean air to breathe!