Regional Haze - VISTAS
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Statutory and Regulatory Authority
The Regional Haze Rule, published on July 1, 1999, was issued to improve visibility in 156 Class I areas - national parks and wilderness areas across the country. In 1999, EPA identified five regional planning organizations (RPOs) to mitigate regional haze in the Class 1 areas. The Southeast States Air Resources Managers (SESARM) was originally identified as the RPO for the southeast. EPA Region 4 was also designated then as the lead region to work with SESARM. SESARM is the entity responsible for coordinating and implementing regional planning for the 18 Class I areas within the eight Region 4 states (Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee) plus Virginia, West Virginia, and Tribes. Through a Memorandum of Understanding (PDF, 6.3kb, 5 pages), these parties have agreed to collaborate in the initiation and coordination of planning activities associated with the management of regional haze, visibility, and other air quality issues. This collaboration is known as Visibility Improvement - State and Tribal Association of the Southeast (VISTAS). These efforts will be carried out with federal funds provided by EPA to SESARM.
VISTAS represents an association of States and Tribes that have the authority and responsibility to develop, adopt, and implement their individual State and Tribal air quality implementation plans. To facilitate the development of these plans, VISTAS recognizes the importance of involving all stakeholders in the process, including State and Tribal representatives, local air quality officials, EPA, Federal Land Managers from the Departments of Interior and Agriculture, and representatives from environmental groups, industry, academia, and the general public. Three standing workgroups exist through which all stakeholders may participate: the Data, Planning, and Technical Analysis Workgroups. Additionally:
- The Regional Haze Rule requires States to set reasonable progress goals and develop long-term strategies aimed at preventing any future, and remedying any existing visibility impairment in the Class 1 areas resulting from man-made pollution with the ultimate goal of reaching natural background conditions by 2064.
- One principal element of the regional haze rule requires the installation of best available retrofit technology (BART) for certain sources placed into operation between 1962 and 1977, that have the potential to emit more than 250 tons a year of visibility-impairing pollutants. This part of the rule was vacated in a May 24, 2002 decision by the 5th Circuit Court in Washington D.C. EPA is currently redeveloping the BART provision, and intends to release it for public comment in April 2004, with finalization in April 2005.
- Visibility-impairing pollutants (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, volitile organic compounds, and ammonia) can travel great distances and cause visibility problems over broad regions of the country.
- States will be required to submit State Implementation Plans (SIPs) addressing regional haze
in each Class I area that may be affected by emissions from that State. Some of the issues
to be addressed in the SIPs include:
- reasonable progress goals towards achieving natural visibility conditions.
- determination of baseline and natural visibility conditions.
- a long term strategy for addressing regional haze visibility impairment for each affected Class I area.
- a monitoring strategy for measuring, characterizing, and reporting regional haze visibility impairment. This can be achieved using the Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) monitoring network.
- BART requirements for regional haze visibility impairment.
- It is anticipated that the initial SIPs will be due in the 2007 – 2008 time frame.
VISTAS staff and the VISTAS member states, along with several independent contractors, are providing
technical oversight and performing the work necessary to allow States to submit their SIPs in the
2007 – 2008 time frame. Work includes a review and analysis of existing data, additional data
collection through ambient monitoring, emissions inventory development for point, area, and mobile
sources, and meteorological, atmospheric and emissions modeling. States in the VISTAS region are
continuing the effort to develop a list of BART-eligible sources. Coordination with the other four
RPOs [MANE-VU, WRAP, CENRAP, and the Midwest RPO] is maintained through regularly scheduled conference
calls and meetings. A data repository for the sharing and storing of analyses and data for the RPOs
has been developed and is known as the Visibility Information Exchange Web System, or VIEWS.
Work under existing contracts continues as VISTAS develops the technical analysis for future control
strategies to address the 20 percent worst and best visibility days in the southeast Class I areas of
concern. VISTAS will develop the technical information its member States and tribes need for the SIPs.
The Region is actively participating in the three technical sub-workgroups for VISTAS and the Regional
Planning Contact is working closely with the national workgroup on Regional Haze. Region 4 is currently
the co-lead Region for Regional Haze.
Regional Haze Planning ContactMichele Notarianni (404) 562-9031
LinksEPA Visibility Website
Visibility Imformation Exchange Web System (VIEWS) Database
Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE)