“The health of our families, especially our children, should be our number one priority. We can no longer allow Kennecott to pass their costs of doing business on to this community and sacrifice our health and quality of life in the process.” ~ Cherise Udell, founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air.
Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation, a division of Rio Tinto Group, is a mining, smelting, and refining company. Its corporate headquarters are located in South Jordan, Utah. Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Utah Moms for Clean Air and the Sierra Club are suing Kennecott Utah Copper for violating the Clean Air Act. They recently met with Kennecott’s group of highly paid lawyers in a federal courtroom in Salt Lake City. The groups argue that Kennecott’s increase in mining production is illegal, despite the state of Utah approving a 2011 expansion permit to the copper mining conglomerate.
So who decides whether a mining expansion permit is legal, the state’s Department of Air Quality or the federal government’s EPA?
It looks as though it’s in the heavy hands of Utah’s federal district judge to decide.
The EPA’s Clean Air Act was adopted in 1970 after visible air quality issues in many of the nation’s large cities. The Clean Air Act was established to protect public health and welfare from different types of air pollution caused by a diverse array of pollution sources. The Clean Air Act manages six “criteria” air pollutants by adopting standards of emissions for each one. Those six pollutants are: particulate matter, ozone, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, lead and nitrogen dioxide. The states are required to adopt their own plans in order to meet the federally regulated pollutants. One would think that in the case of Kennecott vs. Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Utah Moms for Clean Air and the Sierra Club, the judge should rule Kennecott was in violation of the Clean Air Act and the state of Utah did not have the right to issue an expansion permit. Because this allowed Kennecott to increase their polluting emissions. Kennecott argues that by trimming their smelter, power plant and truck emissions by adding new technology, they have significantly reduced their emissions to make up for their expansion. Emission’s tests prove otherwise. Kennecott accounts for 93% of Utah’s lead and lead compound emissions. Since the expansion permit was granted to Kennecott, the environmental groups claim a large increase in toxic air from the state’s top industrial air polluter.
This is wreaking havoc on the health of citizens across the Wasatch Front, many of which are most at risk: children. Only time will tell whether Kennecott will be held accountable for violating the Clean Air Act and forced to clean up their behavior. Meanwhile, environmental groups will continue to do everything in their power to protect the health and well being of their number one priority, the children of Utah.
Photo: Utah Moms For Clean Air