EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said the agency will move forward with a proposed rule to help states take steps to control haze-causing emissions at national parks from older power plants and industrial facilities.
The proposal will affect facilities built between 1962 and 1977 and that emit more than 250 tons of visibility-damaging pollutants each year.
Without air pollution, people could see about 140 miles in the western United States and 90 miles in the East, but in many parts of the country visibility has been reduced in these regions to 33-90 miles in the West and 14-24 miles in the East.
"In some parks, like the Great Smoky Mountains, visibility on the haziest days is cut by as much as 80 percent," said Whitman. "This rule will help ensure that people will be able to see and appreciate these national treasures for many years to come."
The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments required EPA to establish a rule to improve visibility in 156 national parks and wilderness areas.
The amendments also call on states to require these older plants to install best air pollution controls available, technically known as "best available retrofit technology," or BART.
This proposal will amend EPA''s 1999 regional haze rule to guide states to decide which facilities must install air pollution controls; the proposal will also guide states in selecting the most efficient control technology.
The proposed rule will also give states the flexibility to consider economic factors, energy impacts and the remaining useful life of the facility in determining a control program.
The new requirements could also be met through an emissions trading approach similar to one currently being used successfully in EPA''s acid rain program.
The proposal will affect facilities in 26 industrial categories listed in the Clean Air Act, including coal-fired utilities, industrial boilers, refineries and iron and steel plants.
Facilities will have to comply with the new policy by 2013, but those states choosing an emissions trading plan will have more time to comply.
EPA will publish the proposed amendments in the Federal Register and take pubic comment on the plan for 60 days.
by Virginia Sutcliffe