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Fri, Oct. 18

Next step in improving GC's air

The Western Regional Air Partnership released for public comment its draft final recommendation for reducing sulfur dioxide emissions from large industrial sources over the next two decades.

The partnership, successor to the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission, based its recommendations on voluntary reductions by the industrial sources. The plan is expected to meet steadily-declining sulfur dioxide emission milestones.

If the reduction goals are not met, a regulatory backstop program will be implement.

“It was a proud day in 1996 when the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission gathered on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon,” said Robert Arnberger, GCNP superintendent. “The commission presented recommendations to preserve and restore the clear air so essential to enjoying the spectacular panoramas of the Grand Canyon and the rest of the Colorado Plateau.

“Federal agencies, states, tribes, industry, environmentalists and many others worked together to make these proposals — a feat some said couldn’t be done,” Arnberger added.

Arnberger said the hard part now begins with the transformation of the recommendations into regulations, rules and standards.

“We have all heard that ‘the devil is in the details,’ and it’s the devilish details we’re working on now,” Arnberger said. “We need everyone with a stake in this issue to look over these latest recommendations. Will this proposed program preserve and improve our clean air? Are our goals too high, or too low? We’d like to hear from you.”

The Western Regional Air Partnership, or WRAP, membership includes government representatives from Western states, tribes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Interior, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The WRAP recommendation was developed over the last two years by a diverse group of stakeholders, including representatives from government, industry, environmental and nonprofit organizations, and academia.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, a member of WRAP, hosted public meetings recently in Phoenix and Flagstaff. Other meetings were held and are coming up at various spots around the West.

A final recommendation will be made Sept. 25 in Sacramento, Calif., when WRAP meets to review submitted comments. The recommendation needs to be submitted to the EPA by Oct. 2.

Sulfur dioxide has been determined to be an important contributor to haze in Western parks and wilderness areas. Under the EPA’s regional haze rule, nine Western states have the option of establishing milestones for voluntarily reducing sulfur dioxide emissions through 2018.

These milestones must show greater progress toward reducing sulfur dioxide emissions than would be achieved by requiring older facilities to install pollution controls known as “Best Available Retrofit Technology.”

In the traditional approach, installing pollution control equipment is required by regulatory agencies (states, tribes, EPA) on a case-by-case basis, an approach called “command and control.”

WRAP members agreed on how many tons of sulfur dioxide emissions should be cut by 2018. A backstop cap-and-trade program would go into effect if voluntary emission reductions do not achieve the milestones.

Under the backstop program, each emissions source would be limited to the amount of sulfur dioxide it could emit. A source that emitted less than its allowance could sell its access allowances to another source that is over the limit.

Preliminary figures show the program would cost approximately $110 million to $130 million per year.

An executive summary of the proposed program and analysis of expected visibility improvements and economic impacts are among the documents now available on WRAP’s Website. That Website address is www.wrapair.org.

Comments can be submitted to the WRAP Website or sent to one of the following addresses:

• Western Governors’ Assoc-iation, 600 17th St., Suite 175 South, Denver, CO 80202-5452. Phone: 303-623-9378. Fax: 303-534-7309.

• National Tribal Environmental Council, 2221 Rio Grande NW, Albuquerque, N.M., 87104. Phone: 505-242-2175. Fax: 505-242-2654.

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