Final countdown; Now is our last chance to tell the EPA to clean up Utah’s air

Final countdown; Now is our last chance to tell the EPA to clean up Utah’s air

Back in December, I wrote this article about how the future of skiing depends on people working together to address global warming.

In January, I attended a public hearing at the Salt Lake City Public Library held by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding two coal-fired power plants in central Utah: The Hunter and Huntington plants.

I was not ready for what went down in that room. But I sure am glad I spoke up.

Right now, chemicals and particulates emanating from these coal-fired plants are impacting air quality in Utah’s beloved national parks and in special places across the Colorado Rockies and as far south as the Grand Canyon.

Join me in calling on the EPA to clean up coal plant pollution that threatens these national parks and mountain playgrounds.

The EPA is considering whether or not to require installation of modern pollution controls on these two power plants. Utah is one of the last states in the nation yet to implement these common sense, affordable improvements. It’s still a far cry from healthy, sustainable and renewable energy options, but it is a step in the right direction that I very much support.

I hate thinking that my adopted home state is so far behind the rest of the country’s commitment to a clean and healthy livelihood.

 When Caroline Gleich, my fellow Utah resident and Protect Our Winters (POW) Riders Alliance athlete, and I left the pre-hearing press conference, we were on a high: The media had patted us on the back and complimented us for speaking up in support of a healthy environment for all.

But minutes later, when we walked into the EPA hearing, Caroline pointed out something I hadn’t noticed: We were in a very small minority. After attending countless environmental rallies, this caught me hugely off guard. The coal-plant towns and counties had bussed in dozens of their employees and lobbyists to the hearing, protesting against these pollution controls and accusing our attempt to clean the air as being an attempt to take food off their tables and paychecks from their pockets.

On the front lines today with @brodyleven at the EPA public hearing about regional haze in Utah's national parks. It seems like all of Carbon County fit in two busloads to represent the interests of the coal power plants. We felt like the underdogs. The outdoor/tourism industries were seriously underrepresented. I've never been so nervous to speak in front of a group. When I started speaking, I could feel the hostility in the air. But I shared my story and the facts. Utah's outdoor recreation and tourism industries bring in $12.2 billion dollars per year. It's important to clean up the air around the parks and reduce the emissions from coal burning power plants. When I was done, hardly anyone clapped. We need to get more young people and outdoor people to come to these things. We need to make signs and speak up. It's our air and our future. It's scary and not always fun, but it's hugely important to protect the quality of life and the Utah we love. At the end, I gave the coal miners a smile and a wave. I came to realize our goals aren't that different. We are both trying to protect our livelihood- our jobs and the lifestyle we know. It's just the path to the future that we disagree on. #cleanair4utah @protectourwinters @healutah @sierraclub

A photo posted by Caroline Gleich (@carolinegleich) on

During my three-minute commentary, the tension was palpable and the silence was deafening. The audience seemed to hear only what it wanted to hear in order to disagree with me, not to embrace and consider what I had to say.

But I’m glad I was able to speak to the EPA on behalf of those of us who breathe air and prefer it to be clean.

 It is evident that we are up against a powerful industry which prioritizes profits over health. Speaking out on that January day was very uncomfortable for me, but no one was forcing me to be there.

It’s our responsibility to be heard. Our collective voices are much louder than mine alone.

Please click here to submit your public comment in support of clean air for Utah and beyond. It will take less than a minute. Seriously.

Just about every other state has regulated these affordable improvements successfully and we’re capable of doing the same in Utah.

 All of us are forced to adapt in our workplaces as new technology evolves. I wouldn’t climb and ski a mountain using the same gear that Bill Briggs used to ski the Grand Teton 45 years ago.

Just like in outdoor sports, if you look at any industry, with new technology comes evolution. And it’s time our energy sector does the same. Our request is simple: That we use existing modern technology to clean up the air quality in Utah’s National Parks and for all of us who breathe the air here, whether we visit or live here.

Now it’s up to us to speak out and show the groundswell of grassroots support. We need to tell the EPA that we value our health, our environment and the $12 billion outdoor recreation industry in Utah that relies on clean air.

We only have until Monday, March 14 at 5:00 p.m. MST to submit public comments to the EPA. Until then, let’s flood the EPA with tens of thousands of comments in support of clean air.

 Will you join me?

Thank you for getting involved.

 See you in the mountains.

Brody Leven is an adventure skier, storyteller and member the POW Riders Alliance. Follow his adventures on brodyleven.com or @brodyleven on Instagram and Twitter. Find out more about POW at ProtectOurWinters.org.

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