Mr. Chairman, the spectacular vistas and natural beauty of our national parks and wilderness areas draws some 265 million visitors annually. The experience that brings Americans to Yosemite, Redwood and Sequoia in California year after year is of great intrinsic value. It is also of significant economic value to the small communities surrounding these areas which depend on the tourism dollars generated by our devotion to our national parks. Despite our historic commitment to protecting our national park and wilderness areas, however, today our view of them is fading in the haze caused by man˙2Dmade air pollution.

The National Academy of Sciences, in its 1993 report entitled Protecting Visibility in National Parks and Wilderness Areas, outlined the proportions of the problem we face. In the western United States, Americans are able to appreciate only about one˙2Dhalf to two˙2Dthirds of the view they would otherwise enjoy in the absence of this haze. In the east, the range of visibility is only one˙2Dfifth the distance it would be in the absence of such pollution.

Over twenty years ago, Congress recognized the importance of this problem, and took steps to protect against it. In the Clean Air Act amendments of 1977, we established the national goal of remedying and preventing visibility problems in 156 national parks and wilderness areas. Congress also directed EPA to make "reasonable progress" toward accomplishing this goal.

EPA took a modest step toward this goal in 1980 by acting to address discrete sources of such pollution. Nonetheless, it deferred action on the regional sources of pollution that are the predominant cause of the current problem, citing a lack of scientific knowledge on how to measure and deal with the problem.

Frustrated by this slow progress, Congress spoke to the issue again in the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act. In those amendments, we reaffirmed our commitment to the national goal of improving and protecting visibility in our national parks and wilderness areas. Once again, we directed EPA to take concrete steps to advance that goal.

Since the 1990 amendments, the committee of scientists convened by the National Academy in 1993_experts in meteorology, atmospheric chemistry, air pollution monitoring and modeling, statistics, control technology ˙2D have found that current scientific knowledge and control technologies are finally available to address regional haze. EPA has responded by proposing the first˙2Dever rule to combat regional haze.

The proposed rule would establish presumptive targets against which reasonable progress toward improving visibility may be measured. While EPA would provide states with the flexibility to determine how to meet these presumptive standards, EPA should ensure that enforcing those presumptive standards is the rule rather than the exception. That is, the provision for allowing a state unable to meet the presumptive standards to propose alternate standards should be a narrow one. EPA's proposed rule also properly asks states to demonstrate, at reasonable intervals, that they are making progress toward meeting these goals. After waiting twenty years to begin to correct the problem of regional haze in our parks, we need to know that we are taking meaningful steps in this direction.

In recent random survey polling conduced by the National Parks and Conservation Association, 88 percent of respondents supported the reduction of air pollution affecting our parks and wilderness areas. Importantly, those polled supported such measures even if imposed at a cost to them. EPA's current proposal is a reasonable approach which will begin to remove the cloud of haze that now hangs over some of our most spectacular natural treasures. Those treasures ˙2D˙2D among them Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone_deserve no less.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.