Statement of Senator Max Baucus, April 23, 1998

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

This hearing brings back some vivid memories, of the 1990 Clean Air conference.

The visibility issue turned out to be one of the most difficult issues in the entire conference--and that's saying a lot. I won't go into the details, other than to recall that we didn't resolve the issue until the end of the very last conference meeting, at about 3 o'clock in the morning.

The issue was difficult to resolve because we were trying to strike a balance. We wanted to improve visibility throughout the nation. But we also wanted to make states a full partner in the effort.

This hearing gives us a chance to review how well we struck that balance.

Let me step back for a moment, to explain why it's important to improve visibility.

It's not a simple issue. After all, Mr. Chairman, it isn't like other Clean Air Act issues that we work on here in this Subcommittee. It can't be translated into cancer deaths or asthma cases, that can be cranked into a risk assessment and a cost benefits analysis.

But it is very important.

We'll hear a lot of technical jargon today, about things like "deciviews."

But there's something more to it. I'm from Montana. The Big Sky State. For Montanans, the view, the vista, the sense of broad open space, helps to define us.

The same is true elsewhere. Not only in the West, but all around the country. The American character has been formed by the sense of open space and long horizons.

But this view, this sense of space, is diminishing. In 1993, the National Academy of Sciences reported that the average visual range in most of the western United States, including national parks and wilderness areas, is about 60-100 miles. That's about half to two-thirds of the what you'd see naturally.

In most of the East, including parklands, you can see less than about 20 miles, or about one-fifth of what's natural.

We need to improve those figures.

In 1970, we also insisted that States be full partners in planning visilbility improvements.

I'm pleased by the efforts of the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission. When we created this regional commission, some predicted that it wouldn't work. They said that the collaboration among states, the federal government, industry and environmentalists would produce nothing but bickering.

They were wrong.

As we will hear today, the Commission has made a valuable contribution, creating the foundation for success.

Their report lays out some solid recommendations on how we can clear the air and improve visibility.

But we have to go beyond the report stage.

First, EPA must ensure that the final rule permits implementation of the Commission's long-term strategy. I don't think the draft rule does that.

Second, the states must carry out the strategy aggressively.

I look forward to hearing from the witnesses on both of these points.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.