Letter: Montanans deserve full protection – Great Falls Tribune, Oct. 31, 2012

November 1, 2012

Categories: Coal, Letters


Why has the Environmental Protection Agency given Montana second-rate air-pollution protections? Last month the EPA released its final Regional Haze Plan for Montana. The plan fails to safeguard Montanans’ right to breathe healthy air by not requiring our large polluters (primarily coal plants at Colstrip in southeast Montana, and Corette in Billings) to install industry-standard anti-pollution equipment. This equipment is in place at some 240 coal-fired boilers across the country. We have to ask: Why not in Montana?

The EPA’s Regional Haze plan for Montana should ensure that old industrial sources, grandfathered under the Clean Air Act, install modern and cost-effective air-pollution controls. Pennsylvania Power and Light (PP&L) is the managing partner of the Colstrip Power Plant, which produces more pollutants than the next nine polluters combined in Montana. In order to avoid upgrading pollution controls at Colstrip, PP&L conducted a lengthy and intense lobbying campaign with EPA.

In spite of citizens’ protests, mainly emphasizing health issues, Colstrip and Corette have been exempted from industry-standard pollution-control upgrades in the EPA’s plan for Montana. The pollution-control upgrades would have controlled nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and particulate pollution. Here is how haze pollutants can shorten lifespans and degrade quality of life.

• Nitrogen oxides are key ingredients in ground-level ozone, which is associated with respiratory disease, asthma attacks and decreased lung function.

• Sulfur dioxide increases asthma symptoms and hospital visits and can form particulates.

• Particulates, especially microscopic particulates, can compromise the heart and lungs, can cross the blood-brain barrier, and can cause premature death.

• For Montanans and the millions of tourists who visit our state, haze pollution degrades visibility in our national parks and other scenic areas.

The EPA estimates that, by 2015, full implementation of Regional Haze Plans nationally would prevent 1,600 premature deaths, 2,200 non-fatal heart attacks and more than 1 million lost school and work days — health benefits valued at $8.4 billion to $9.8 billion. Although we have one of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the nation, Montana will be exempted from these benefits.

As members of a diverse group of Montana seniors, we have a moral imperative to protect this and future generations from needless air pollution. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania Power and Light does not seem to share this value. With the nearly $1 billion in net profits they made in 2010 alone, Pennsylvania Power and Light can afford to install the anti-pollution equipment we Montanans deserve.

Harold and Jan Hoem, Dennis O’Donnell, Charles Fitts, Jay Gore, Laulette Hansen, Ray Willms. Don Hyndman and Juliane Devlin are members of Montana Elders for a Livable Tomorrow in Missoula.

220 South 27th Street, Suite A
Billings, Montana 59101
(406) 248-1154