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Kennecott expansion spurs lively hearings

Published February 23, 2011 3:55 pm

Air quality • Supporters praise company's plan, opponents warn against added pollution.
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Kennecott's expansion proposal ran into a barrage of criticism Tuesday from people who say Salt Lake Valley cannot afford the added pollution.

But the hearing also attracted dozens of supporters — citizens, local government officials and local business partners who praised the international copper company for its contributions to the economy and even its efforts to address pollution.

Both sides weighed in on permit changes that would allow the company to proceed with its proposal to widen and deepen its massive mining pit in the Oquirrh Mountains on the western edge of Utah's busiest — and most polluted — population center.



About 100 people turned out for hearings that lasted more than four hours, and about half of them commented on a request to change the state's plan for controlling PM 10 pollution — mostly dust and large exhaust particles — to allow for the expansion, which Kennecott has dubbed the "Cornerstone Project."

The second request would allow Kennecott to update its facilities under the New Source Review standards in the Clean Air Act. The changes are required because additional pollution is expected as Kennecott moves up to 260 million tons of dirt and rock each year, up from the 197 million tons currently allowed.

Changes to these permits are the first of about two dozen the company is expected to bring before the state's environmental regulators for the expansion. Comprising the Utah operations of the British-Australian Rio Tinto Group, Kennecott has about 70 state environmental permits.

Nearly 30 people criticized regulators for considering allowing more pollution and Kennecott for being the county's single biggest polluter. They noted Salt Lake County already fails to meet federal standards for PM 10, fine-particle soot called PM 2.5 and ozone.

Marion Klaus, chair of the Sierra Club of Utah, noted that Salt Lake County exceeded EPA standards on 51 days last year. She also noted Kennecott's parent company racked up $14.3 billion in profits last year.

"The only thing truly healthy [about Kennecott] is the profit they make," she said, adding that locals and their children "pay the cost" while faraway shareholders enjoy the profits.

"We have in fact fouled our own nest," Klaus said, "and we need to clean it up and not permit fouling it up anymore."

Provo resident Carol Walters also urged regulators to reject the company's requests because poor air quality damages health."A job isn't much use," she said, "if you can't breathe."

Alan Anderson, president and CEO of the ChamberWest business association, was among nearly two dozen speakers who urged approval of the requested changes without delay.

Among the facts cited by supporters: Kennecott employs about 2,400 people and pumps $900 million into the economy each year. And it has spent nearly $1 billion on cleanup and reducing the environmental pollution caused by its operations.

Rob Campbell, of Kennecott supplier Wheeler Machinery Co., concluded: "My sincere hope is that state regulators will consider the vital role Kennecott plays in the local economy, Kennecott's leading role in improving previously mined lands and improving air and water quality, and the many families whose lives are better because Kennecott is here." —

Kennecott expansion

P The Utah Division of Air Quality is still accepting public comments on the proposed air-emissions permit changes. Comments on the New Source Review for the dust under the New Source Review Program are due by March 8. More information is available at http://bit.ly/53vcll.

Comments on the changes in the State Implementation Plan for PM 10 are due by March 3. More information is available online: See the link to R307-110-17, http://bit.ly/fFdl33 .

Kennecott has a Web page describing its overall proposal at: http://bit.ly/f75Ev7.

 

 

 

 

 

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