Peak & Prairie

Rocky Mountain Chapter's
Online Newsletter
October / November 1999


Less Haze — Coming to a National Park Near You???

by Bill Myers, Sierra Club Denver Metro Air Quality Chair

Hazy air quality and reduced visibility in our National Parks and Class I wilderness areas has been a long-term problem. Congress started to address this with the passage of amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1977, directing that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would study the issue to develop methods to control regional haze and try to return vistas within national parks to “natural conditions.”

Thirteen years later, nothing specific had been done to correct the problem. In 1990, when the Clean Air Act Amendments were passed, Congress established the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport commission to study the 16 Class I areas on the Colorado Plateau. This study took the first half of this decade to complete, and had several recommendations that required reductions in sulfate and particulate pollution across the West.

Three summers ago, EPA proposed a regional haze rule to reduce emissions affecting these areas. This rule has led to the creation of a unique partnership of western states to coordinate emission reductions, the Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP). It officially consists of ten states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. The states of California and Nevada are not official members, but regularly attend meetings addressing regional haze. 

The purpose of the WRAP is to coordinate emission reduction strategies that will lead to a discernible improvement in visibility in national park and wilderness areas no later than 2018. The ultimate plan is to bring visibility from current levels (100 miles) to natural levels (260 miles) by the year 2064, by adoption of cleaner burning fuels, vehicles and the closure of numerous coal-fired power plants as their life expectancies run out.

WRAP is composed of many issue committees and forums. Nina Dougherty of the Utah Chapter serves as an environmental representative to the Mobile Sources & Fuels subcommittee, Bob Paltozer of the Oregon Chapter may be appointed to the contentious “prescribed burn” subcommittee, and this author serves as the environmental representative on pollution sources “in and near” Class I areas. Next year, it is anticipated that a regional seminar on all park-related problems will be held in the Springdale/Zion National Park area in Fall 2000. Further details will be provided in Peak & Prairie prior to this conference.

The WRAP may provide the first realistic forum in which Western states can discuss regional sources of pollution, and make the necessary, needed reductions to promote our natural, beautiful environment.

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