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Kennecott Sued Over Clean Air Violations at World's Largest Copper Mine in Salt Lake County
Brian Moench, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, (801) 243-9089
Cherise Udell, Utah Moms for Clean Air, (510) 306-6963
Salt Lake City–In the midst of the Wasatch Front’s first air quality advisories of the winter, a coalition of doctors, moms, health, and environmental groups today filed suit against Kennecott Copper, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, over the company’s failure to protect clean air in Salt Lake County and beyond.
At issue are ongoing clean air violations at Kennecott’s
Bingham Canyon Copper Mine, the world’s largest open pit copper mine located in
western Salt Lake County in the Oquirrh Mountains. For at least the last five years, the company has violated
its federal limits on ore and waste rock production. These production limits were put in place in 1994 to curb
particulate matter emissions and meet health standards.
“Our families depend on clean air, plain and simple,” said Cherise Udell, founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air. “All we’re asking is that Kennecott take responsibility for protecting the health of our children and our future.”
Currently, Salt Lake County and other Wasatch Front counties are in violation
of federal health limits on particulate matter. The region has some of the worst particulate pollution in
the United States. Conservative
estimates show that 1,000 - 2,000 Utahns die prematurely every year because of
particulate pollution. According
to Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, an organization of medical
experts dedicated to protecting public health, these levels of pollution can
shorten the life span of individuals by about two years.
Under the Clean Air Act,
citizens have the right to enforce clean air laws in order to safeguard public
health and welfare. Exercising
that right, WildEarth Guardians, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, and
Utah Moms for Clean Air filed suit under the Clean Air Act in federal court in
Salt Lake City. The suit seeks a
ruling that Kennecott is violating the Clean Air Act, an order that Kennecott
comply with the 150,500,000 ton/year production limit, and pay the maximum
penalty of $37,500 per violation per day as allowed by federal law.