Local Expert Finds EPA Regional Haze Plan “Unhealthy”

This item originally appeared in: Public News Service


Deb Courson

 HELENA, Mont. - The Colstrip power plant would have to upgrade pollution-control equipment under the federal Environmental Protection Agency's long-awaited Regional Haze Plan made public this week - but the requirements aren't what local health advocates had expected.

The EPA proposal does not require Colstrip to install "selective catalytic reduction" (SCR), even while noting that the lack of that technology will mean pollution levels will be up to three times higher than if it were installed.

Montana nurse Kelli Barber, who co-chairs the group Health Care Without Harm, says the EPA has required SCR at other plants.

"These communities deserve the industry standard in terms of pollution controls, and ultimately health protection."

Built in 1975, Colstrip is owned by a Pennsylvania company. While the EPA plan doesn't specifically say why SCR was left out, it does hint that cost was a factor. 

Barber says hundreds of other power plants already have installed the latest pollution-control equipment to protect public health. She says it's estimated the Colstrip plant pollution causes about 30 deaths each year, along with hundreds of asthma attacks.

"Health care costs, the rates at which they're developing diseases or having exacerbations of conditions like asthma, and not to mention human suffering."

The EPA is accepting public comments on the proposal and will hold two public hearings in Montana in May. Its proposal is online at epa.gov, and details on Colstrip health impacts are at catf.us.