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Regional Haze Proposal Will Help Restore Visibility in America’s National Parks and Wilderness Areas

Release Date: 04/16/2004
Contact Information:


Contact: John Millett, 202-564-7842 / millett.john@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C. - April 16, 2004) As part of a long-term effort to restore the view of scenic vistas in our national parks and wilderness areas, EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt signed a rule that would cut emissions of air pollutants that reduce visibility. The proposal amends EPA’s 1999 Regional Haze Rule, which requires the installation of best available retrofit technology (BART) on older facilities emitting pollution that states determine harms visibility in specially protected areas.

The proposal satisfies the terms of a May 2002 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which vacated parts of the BART provisions of the 1999 Regional Haze Rule (American Corn Growers et. al. v. EPA, 291 F. 3d 1 (D.C. cir. 2002). The proposal now requires states to consider the visibility impacts of an individual facility when determining whether they have to install controls, and what those controls would be; it adds an emissions standard for nitrogen oxides that was not included in the 2001 guidelines and refines the emissions standard for sulfur dioxide. Other changes are relatively minor clarifications.

States would be required to identify facilities subject to BART controls and determine the level of pollution control technology required. For the power plants covered by this proposal, EPA estimates that BART would result in emission reductions of approximately 2.2 million tons of sulfur dioxide and 1.2 million tons of nitrogen oxides by 2015. Additional reductions are expected to be achieved by other types of facilities. Many of these facilities previously have not been subject to federal pollution control requirements for visibility-harming pollutants. For some of the source categories, existing technology can reduce emissions by 90 to 95 percent.

As currently proposed, states will determine how to apply BART requirements to facilities in 26 industry categories built between 1962 and 1977 that have the potential to emit more than 250 tons a year of visibility-impairing pollution. The facilities include the following: fossil-fuel fired steam electric plants and boilers of more than 250 million British thermal units (BTU) per hour heat input; coal cleaning plants (thermal dryers); kraft pulp mills; Portland cement plants; primary zinc smelters; iron and steel mill plants; primary aluminum ore reduction plants; primary copper smelters; municipal incinerators capable of charging more than 250 tons of refuse per day; hydrofluoric, sulfuric, and nitric acid plants; petroleum refineries; lime plants; phosphate rock processing plants; coke oven batteries; sulfur recovery plants; carbon black plants (furnace process); primary lead smelters; fuel conversion plants; sintering plants; secondary metal production facilities; chemical process plants; petroleum storage and transfer facilities with a capacity exceeding 300,000 barrels; taconite ore processing facilities; glass fiber processing plants; and charcoal production facilities.

Combined with the Clean Air Rules of 2004, the BART proposal offers an additional tool for states to address remaining sources of air pollution in the United States. While BART specifically addresses pollution from older facilities that impairs visibility in specially protected areas, these other clean air rules will also reduce pollution from power plants, industrial facilities, passenger cars, light trucks, sport-utility vehicles, heavy-duty diesel trucks, and diesel-powered construction and farm equipment. As these clean air rules take effect over the next decade, EPA projects that the pollution reductions will improve air quality across the country, help communities achieve new, more protective standards for ozone and fine particles (PM 2.5), and further protect America’s national parks and wilderness areas.

Visibility is affected by different sources at different times of the year and under different weather conditions. Some other significant contributors to visibility impairment include car and truck emissions, area sources (broadly distributed and numerous small sources), wildfires, agricultural fires, and wind blown dust. Regional haze is a national problem caused by multiple sources over a wide area. The same pollution that causes haze also poses serious health risks for people with chronic respiratory diseases. These pollutants include PM 2.5, and compounds which contribute to PM 2.5 formation, such as oxides of nitrogen, sulfur dioxides, and certain volatile organic compounds.

Because states are just beginning to identify all of the facilities that will be subject to BART and the pollution controls required, it is difficult at this proposal stage to accurately estimate the total number of facilities likely to be affected and the amount of pollution expected to be prevented.

The Clean Air Act established a long-term goal of achieving natural background visibility conditions at specially protected, or Class I, areas. The act requires that state air quality plans contain enforceable measures and strategies for reducing pollution and achieving “reasonable progress” toward visibility goals. By January 2008 states must identify the facilities
required to install BART controls and submit plans to implement the Regional Haze Rule for EPA review and approval. Upon approval of state plans, there is a five-year period for the implementation of pollution controls. Depending on the approach taken by the states, the reductions associated with the BART program would begin to take effect in 2014, with full implementation before 2018. Congress required that deadlines for BART state implementation plans match those for PM 2.5.

EPA will be taking public comment on the proposal for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. Copies of today’s proposal and fact sheet are available at: http://www.epa.gov/visibility.

A list of Class I areas is available online at: http://www.epa.gov/oar/vis/class1.html , and a map of Class I areas is available at: http://www.epa.gov/ttn/oarpg/t1/fr_notices/classimp.gif. For more information on EPA’s Regional Haze Program, visit: http://www.epa.gov/visibility.

More information on the Clean Air Rules of 2004 is available at: http://www.epa.gov/cleanair2004/.