Canyon views may<br>improve with new plan
GC VILLAGE — Views of the Grand Canyon may become clearer in the future with approval of a plan to cut sulfur dioxide emissions in Arizona and eight other western states.
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christie Whitman gave her preliminary stamp of approval to the plan Thursday during a meeting with western governors. The proposal would cut emissions from various industrial facilities, including power plants and smelters, in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
The Western Regional Air Partnership Annex Plan to reduce the haze-causing pollutants was developed by several western states, tribes and interest groups. The partnership works to protect the visibility of areas such as Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion and Canyonlands.
"I want to applaud all of the representatives from the state, local and tribal air quality agencies, environmental organizations and business community who have worked diligently to make this partnership work," Whitman said. "You have demonstrated that environmental regulators, affected businesses and environmental groups can work together to find mutually acceptable solutions to air quality problems."
According to the EPA, haze is caused when sunlight encounters very small pollution particles in the air. Some light is absorbed by particles. Other light is scattered away before it reaches an observer. More pollutants mean more absorption and scattering of light, which reduces the clarity and color of what people see. Some types of particles such as sulfates scatter more light, particularly during humid conditions.
The same pollution that causes haze has also been found to pose serious health risks, especially for people with chronic respiratory diseases.
In September 2000, the WRAP submitted to EPA a plan containing recommendations for implementing EPA’s regional haze rule in the western United States.
Specifically, the plan recommended a series of regional emissions reduction milestones for sulfur dioxide, a key compound in the formation of fine particles and regional haze.
The plan also defines an emissions allowance trading program for nine western states and eligible Indian tribes that would be a "backstop" to ensure that emission milestones are met.
Under the plan, states and tribes would collect annual emission reports and use them to develop an emissions total for the region.
If the regional total exceeds the annual milestone, the emissions allowance market trading program would be triggered to ensure that emission reduction milestones and visibility goals are met.
Currently, industrial facilities in the region covered by the WRAP emit approximately 650,000 tons per year of sulfur dioxide. By 2018, this proposal would reduce emissions by nearly one third.
"I believe the plan that the partnership has presented is an innovative approach to improving air quality and EPA shares WRAP’s goals of protecting some of America’s most treasured national parks and wilderness areas," Whitman said.
Along with the state of Arizona, the Hopi Tribe and Hualapai Nation are among the WRAP participants. Federal participants include the EPA, Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture.
The Clean Air Act requires EPA to protect visibility in 156 national parks and wilderness areas.
The proposal becomes final after a 60-day public comment period and approval by the nine states.
The Environmental Protection Agency will hold one public hearing in this summer in Phoenix to accept oral testimony from the public. The meeting is scheduled for early June.
To download a copy of last week’s proposed rule from EPA’s Web site, go to:
www.epa.gov/ttn/oarpg/ramain.html and click on "Recent Actions."
To read a copy of the Regional Haze Rule, go to: