TESTIMONY OF JOHN S. SEITZ
TESTIMONY OF JOHN S. SEITZ
OFFICE OF AIR QUALITY PLANNING AND STANDARDS
OFFICE OF AIR AND RADIATION
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
SUBCOMMITTEE ON CLEAN AIR, WETLANDS, PRIVATE PROPERTY
AND NUCLEAR SAFETY
COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
UNITED STATES SENATE
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting me again to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) proposed rule to improve visibility and reduce regional haze in our national parks and wilderness areas.
As you know, EPA revised the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone and particulate matter in July 1997. These updated standards have the potential to prevent as many as 15,000 premature deaths each year, and up to hundreds of thousands of cases of significantly decreased lung function and aggravated asthma in children. In the review of the standards, EPA concluded that the most appropriate way to address the visibility impairment associated with particulate matter (PM) would be to establish a regional haze program in conjunction with setting secondary PM standards equivalent to the primary standards. EPA proposed new regulations addressing regional haze in July 1997.
As I testified before this subcommittee last April, virtually all of our national parks and wilderness areas are subject to some degree of visibility impairment due to regional haze. This fact has been extensively documented by monitoring conducted since 1978 by the EPA, the National Park Service, the United States Forest Service, and other agencies. Haze, which obscures the clarity, color, texture, and form of what we see, is caused by natural and man-made pollutants emitted to the atmosphere through a number of activities, such as electric power generation, various industrial and manufacturing processes, car and truck emissions, burning activities. These emissions are often transported long distances affecting visibility in certain parks and wilderness areas that have been identified by Congress for protection under the Clean Air Act. These areas are known as "Class I" areas.
As you are aware, the causes and severity of regional haze vary greatly between the East and the West. The average standard visual range in most of the Western U.S. is 60 to 90 miles, or about one-half to two-thirds of the visual range that would exist without man-made air pollution. In most of the East, the average standard visual range is 15 to 30 miles, or about one-sixth to one-third of the visual range that would exist under natural conditions. One of the major challenges associated with this problem is that these conditions are often caused not by one single source or group of sources near each park or wilderness area, but by mixing of emissions from a wide variety of sources over a broad region.
The Clean Air Act established special goals for visibility in many national parks, wilderness areas, and international parks. Section 169A of the 1977 Amendments to the Clean Air Act sets the "prevention of any future, and the remedying of any existing, impairment of visibility in mandatory Class I Federal areas which impairment results from manmade air pollution" as a national goal for visibility. This section also calls for EPA to issue regulations to assure "reasonable progress" toward meeting the national goal. EPA issued regulations in 1980 to address the visibility problem that is "reasonably attributable" to a single source or group of sources. These rules were designed to be the first phase in EPA's overall program to protect visibility. At that time, EPA deferred action addressing regional haze impairment until improved monitoring and modeling techniques could provide more source-specific information, and EPA could improve its understanding of the pollutants causing impairment.
As part of the 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act, Congress added section 169B to focus on regional haze issues. Under this section, EPA is required to establish a visibility transport commission for the region affecting visibility in the Grand Canyon National Park. EPA established the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission in 1991 to examine regional haze impairment for the 16 mandatory Class I Federal areas on the Colorado Plateau, located near the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona. After several years of technical assessment and policy development, the Commission issued its final report in June 1996. The Commission's recommendations covered a wide range of control strategy approaches, planning and tracking activities, and technical findings which address protection of visibility in the Class I areas in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon National Park.
Under the 1990 Amendments, Congress required EPA to take regulatory action within 18 months of receiving the Commission's recommendations. EPA proposed the regional haze rules in July of last year in conjunction with the final national ambient air quality standards for particulate matter. In developing the proposed regulations, EPA took into account the findings of the Commission, as well as those from a 1993 National Academy of Sciences Report.
In 1990, the National Academy of Sciences formed a Committee on Haze in National Parks and Wilderness Areas to address a number of regional haze-related issues, including methods for determining the contributions of man-made sources to haze as well as methods for considering alternative source control measures. In 1993, the National Academy issued a report entitled, "Protecting Visibility in National Parks and Wilderness Areas" which discussed the science of regional haze. Among other things, the Committee concluded that "current scientific knowledge was adequate and available control technologies exist to justify regulatory action to improve and protect visibility." The Committee also concluded that progress toward the national goal will require regional programs operating over large geographic areas. Further, the Committee felt strategies should be adopted that consider many sources simultaneously on a regional basis.
In addition to the findings of the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission and the National Academy of Sciences, EPA also took into consideration recommendations and discussions related to regional haze from the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee's Subcommittee on Ozone, Particulate Matter, and Regional Haze Implementation Programs established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) in developing the proposed regional haze rule. The Subcommittee included wide representation from states, local and tribal governments, industry, environmental groups and academia. This Subcommittee met regularly over two-and-one-half years to consider a variety of implementation issues associated with the revised national ambient air quality standards and the proposed regional haze rule. It also focused discussions on how best to develop more cost-effective, flexible strategies for implementing these requirements.
EPA's Proposed Regional Haze Rule
EPA's proposed regional haze rule is designed to establish a program to address visibility impairment in the Nation's most treasured national parks and wilderness areas. In this rule, EPA is proposing to improve visibility, or visual air quality, in 156 important natural areas found in every region of the country. These areas range from Grand Canyon, Canyonlands, and Rocky Mountain National Park in the southwest; to Yellowstone, Glacier, and Mt. Rainier in the northwest; to Shenandoah and the Great Smokies in the Appalachians; to Yosemite, Sequoia, and Point Reyes in California; to Acadia, Lye Brook, and Great Gulf in the northeast; to the Everglades and Sipsey Wilderness in the southeast; to Big Bend, Wichita Mountains, Badlands, and the Boundary Waters in the central states. More than 60 million visitors experience the spectacular beauty of these areas annually. The proposed regional haze rule, in conjunction with implementation of other Clean Air Act programs, will significantly improve visibility in these areas. Further, EPA expects visibility to improve well beyond these areas, across broader regions of the United States.
Mr. Chairman, in my previous testimony before this Subcommittee last April, I provided a detailed description of the EPA's proposed rule on regional haze and so I will not repeat this information here today.
Status of EPA's Regional Haze Rule and Recent Notice of Availability of Additional Information
EPA Administrator Browner signed the proposed haze rule on July 18, 1997. At that time, we made the proposed rule and other related materials available to the public on the Internet and through other means. The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on July 31, 1997, and last September, I chaired an EPA-sponsored public hearing in Denver, Colorado. In response to requests by the public, we extended the initial public comment period by about six weeks, to December 5, 1997. We held numerous sessions across the country to discuss the regional haze proposal, including a national satellite broadcast for all state and local air pollution agencies during which we discussed the proposal and answered questions from the viewers. I have also actively participated in meetings of the Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP), a follow-up organization to the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission that is co-chaired by Governor Shutiva of the Pueblo of Acoma and Governor Leavitt of Utah. The WRAP is a voluntary organization established by several states and tribes which EPA will be working with to address western visibility issues.
Recently two significant events have influenced our efforts to finalize the regional haze regulations. First, in June, President Clinton signed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) which, among other things, included a provision to ensure that states' control strategies and plans for regional haze are harmonized with those required for PM 2.5. More specifically, this aspect of TEA-21 requires states to submit their regional haze implementation plans within one year after EPA designates an area of the country as "attainment@ or Aunclassifiable@ for PM2.5, or at the same time that PM 2.5 state implementation plans are due for areas that EPA designates as Anonattainment@ for PM 2.5. This provision of TEA-21 reinforces EPA's expressed intent in the proposed rule to coordinate the state plan revisions to address regional haze with those required to meet the PM2.5 standard. EPA intends to incorporate the deadlines of TEA-21 into the final rule in a way that promotes regional planning efforts across regions that include areas designated attainment and those designated nonattainment. Second, EPA received a letter on June 29, 1998 from Governor Leavitt, on behalf of the Western Governors' Association (WGA), that specifically addresses how EPA should treat the Commission recommendations within the national rule. The WGA developed the letter in conjunction with several stakeholders involved in the Commission. EPA was not a part of this process. In the letter the WGA requested that EPA reopen the comment period for 30 days.
In response to these two events, both of which occurred after the extended comment period closed, we published a Notice of Availability of additional information on September 3, 1998 providing an additional 30-day period for the public to comment on two aspects of the Agency's regional haze proposal. Specifically, the Agency is requesting public comments on: (1) how EPA should interpret TEA-21 legislation to best coordinate state planning for PM 2.5 and regional haze; and (2) the Western Governor Association's proposal on changes to EPA's proposed regional haze rule to address the recommendations of the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission. In addition to providing the full text of the Western Governors' Association letter on EPA's Internet site, we have also provided sample text illustrating how the Western Governors' Association's recommendations could be reflected in regulatory language. It is important to note that EPA is not reopening the comment period for any other issues related to the proposed regional haze rule. Following the close of this comment period and our careful review of the comments, we intend to issue a final regional haze rule this Fall.
In summary, we believe that EPA's new proposed regional haze rule, when finalized, will establish a framework to improve visibility in our Nation's parks and wilderness areas, as the Congress intended in the Clean Air Act. Over the past several years, we have been busy reviewing public comments and considering options for addressing the concerns of various commenters. At the request of various interested parties, including the Western Governors Association, STAPPA/ALAPCO, NESCAUM, and industry and environmental groups, we have held additional meetings to discuss issues related to the rule. In addition, we have re-opened the comment period for public consideration of the rule's incorporation of the TEA-21 deadlines and the Western Governors Association's suggestions for including the Grand Canyon Visibility Commission's recommendations. I want to be clear that we still have not made final decisions on these matters. Our goal is to ensure that these new requirements are implemented in a common sense, cost-effective and flexible manner. We intend to continue working closely with state and local governments, other federal agencies and all other interested parties to accomplish this goal.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my written statement. I will be happy to answer any questions that you might have.