Great Basin National Park, which boasts the cleanest air of any park in the Lower 48, could lose that distinction if a coal-fired power plant is allowed to go on-line as proposed just 38 miles northwest of the park.
An analysis by the National Park Service’s Air Resource Division has found that the level of potential emissions by the proposed Ely Energy Center would have significant negative impacts to park resources as well as to the surrounding area of White Pine County. Air quality, visibility, night skies and water quality could be affected.
In a letter to the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, park officials noted the clear night skies above Great Basin and warned that air pollution from the proposed 1,500-megawatt plant could cast a haze over those skies.
White Pine County's night skies are among the darkest in the country. Two-thirds of Americans
cannot see the Milky Way from their backyards and nearly all live in places with measurable
light pollution. Dark night skies, for the first time in history, are becoming an extinct
phenomenon. Researchers predict that at the current rate of increasing light pollution, by 2025 no
dark skies will remain in the continental United States. Air pollution decreases night sky
visibility, just like it does in the daytime. Air pollution particles increase the scattering of light in
the atmosphere, increasing sky glow.
Issuance of a permit for the levels of emissions predicted in the proposed project would
compromise visibility at Great Basin National Park and White Pine County.
At the National Parks Conservation Association, Pacific Regional Director Ron Sundergill shared the park's concerns.
"The air pollution from the proposed 1,500-megawatt power plant would ... jeopardize the lakes and wildlife at Great Basin National Park. Damaging emissions of sulfur, nitrogen and mercury from the power plant would deposit in the rivers and lakes, hurting animals that depend on those water sources," said Mr. Sundergill. "The same polluted air that would harm the wildlife at Great Basin National Park would also harm the children playing in Ely.
"The Nevada Department of Environmental Protection must put the brakes on dirty, coal-fired power plants and encourage clean, renewable energy sources so that the air in Great Basin is healthy for people and wildlife."
According to an NPCA analysis, more than 150 of the 390 parks in the national park system are located in areas of the country that fail to meet basic healthy air standards. For more information, check out this site.
(Note: The park's letter to the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection is attached below.)