Deal would speed cuts in western coal pollution

By MATTHEW BROWN | June 19, 2011 | 11:13 AM EDT

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Aging coal-fired power plants across the West could be forced to install costly pollution control equipment under a new agreement between federal regulators and environmentalists.

Many utilities already have cut air emissions in recent years to meet health standards. Next up are even deeper cuts to improve visibility in 156 national parks and wilderness areas — reductions first announced in 1999 but yet to be widely realized.

After being sued by environmentalists, the Environmental Protection Agency agreed this month to adopt final plans in 2012 to reduce haze pollution in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Court approval is pending.

Jeremy Nichols with plaintiff WildEarth Guardians says 18 western coal plants built prior to 1977 would have to be retired or get new equipment to meet the federal mandate.