Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and Utah Moms for Clean Air are among the groups suing Kennecott over an expansion to mine more land, which they said is illegal.
The groups believe the expansion is a violation of the Clean Air Act, calling into question the interpretation of the State Implementation Plan or SIP. The SIP is a complex plan of control regulations and emissions limits agreed upon by the Environmental Protection Agency and Utah’s Division of Air Quality.
Dr. Brian Moench with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment said Kennecott got the go ahead to expand their mining operations from the DAQ, but not the EPA and without that final stamp of approval from the federal government, the expansion is illegal.
“They like to portray that they followed all the rules but they didn’t,” Moench said of Kennecott. “They stopped at the process where they had the advantage and ignored the rest of the process.”
However, Kennecott attorneys argued their interpretation of the SIP only required the approval of the DAQ. They said once DAQ granted permits, all their requirements for expansion were met.
Justin Jones with Kennecott said the company has received two approvals from the state. The first was in 1999, which increased production from the 150.5 million ton annual limit to 197 tons annually. The second permit was granted in 2011 and increased production to 280 million tons annually.
“Any work that we’ve done has all been within those permits and within the authority the Division of Air Quality has given us to operate” Jones said.
Jones added that although mining has increased, emissions have not due to improved technology and equipment.
Still, environmental groups said it is not enough.
“I know how many kids are growing up here like my own that are being harmed by this air pollution and it makes me sad,” Cherise Udell with Utah Moms for Clean Air said.
U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby did not make a ruling on the case. He said he would seek advisement.