TESTIMONY OF JOHN S. SEITZ, DIRECTOR,
OFFICE OF AIR QUALITY PLANNING AND STANDARDS,
OFFICE OF AIR AND RADIATION,
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
April 23, 1998

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) proposed rule to improve visibility and reduce regional haze in our Nation's national parks and wilderness areas.

As you know, in July 1997 EPA revised the national ambient air quality standards for ground-level ozone and particulate matter. 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 would be to establish a regional haze program in conjunction with setting secondary PM standards equivalent to the suite of primary standards. EPA proposed new regulations addressing regional haze in July 1997 as well.

Mr. Chairman, as you know, virtually all of our national parks and wilderness areas are subject to some degree of regional haze visibility impairment. This fact has been extensively documented by monitoring conducted by the National Park Service, EPA, the United States Forest Service, and other agencies since 1978. Haze obscures the clarity, color, texture, and form of what we see, and it is caused by natural and anthropogenic pollutants that are 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, and so on. These emissions often are transported long distances to affect visibility in certain parks and wilderness areas that have been identified for protection by Congress under the Clean Air Act. The areas are known as "Class I" areas.

We also know that the causes and severity of regional haze vary greatly between the East and the West. 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 manmade 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. Background

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 a national goal for visibility of 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." 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 part of 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 gain further knowledge about the pollutants causing impairment.

As part of the 1990 Amendments, Congress added section 169B to focus on regional haze issues. Under this section, EPA was required to establish a visibility transport commission for the region affecting the visibility of 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 completed 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 Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission, as well as findings from a 1993 National Academy of Sciences Report, and information developed by the EPA Clean Air Act Advisory Committee.

The National Academy of Sciences formed a Committee on Haze in National Parks and Wilderness Areas in 1990 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 of Sciences issued a report entitled, "Protecting Visibility in National Parks and Wilderness Areas," 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 developing the proposed regional haze rule, EPA also took into consideration recommendations and discussions related to regional haze from our Clean Air Act Federal Advisory Committee and its Subcommittee on Ozone, Particulate Matter, and Regional Haze Implementation Programs. The Subcommittee included wide representation from States, local and Tribal governments, industry, environmental groups and academia. This Subcommittee met regularly over the past 2 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, Mesa Verde, and Bryce Canyon 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 would significantly improve visibility in these areas. Further EPA expects visibility to improve well beyond these areas, across broader regions of the United States.

The National Academy of Sciences report and other studies show that emissions from sources such as power plants, industrial sources, and motor vehicles generally span broad geographic areas and can be transported hundreds of miles, creating haze across large regions of the country. Therefore, the proposed regional haze regulations would require participation by all States throughout the country. This includes States which do not have Class I parks or wilderness areas because emissions from these States may contribute to impairment in downwind Class I areas in other States.

The regional haze proposal establishes a requirement for States to implement strategies to meet "reasonable progress targets" for improving visibility in each Class I area. These targets would be designed to improve visibility on the worst days, and to prevent degradation of visibility on the best days. EPA is proposing to express the progress targets in a way that provides flexibility from one region of the country to another, by using the "deciview" as a measurement. The deciview index expresses the overall effect on visibility resulting from changing levels of the key components of fine particulate matter (sulfates, nitrates, organic and elemental carbon, soil dust) which contribute to the degradation of visibility. These components are routinely measured by an interagency visibility monitoring network that has been in place for several years in national parks and forests. Like the decibel scale which is used to measure sound, the deciview index measures perceived changes across the range of possible conditions (for example, from clean to dirty days). A change of one to two deciviews is considered to be perceptible by the average person for a typical complex view. Visibility monitoring data shows that over the past several years, visibility impairment on the worst days ranges from 27 to 34 deciviews in eastern locations and 13 to 25 in western locations. A deciview of zero represents pristine conditions, meaning the absence of natural or manmade impairment in visibility.

EPA's proposed presumptive "reasonable progress target" has two elements: (1) for the 20% of the days having the worst visibility, the target is a rate of improvement equal to 1.0 deciview over either a 10-year or 15-year period [we asked for comments on each option]; and (2) for the 20% of the days having the best visibility, the target is no degradation. For example, in a place like the Shenandoah National Park, where ambient fine particle levels for the worst days average 20 micrograms per cubic meter, a reduction of up to 2 micrograms per cubic meter would be needed to achieve a 1 deciview improvement. Whereas in the Grand Canyon, where ambient fine particle levels for the worst days average about 5 micrograms per cubic meter, a reduction of up to one-half a microgram would be sufficient to achieve a 1 deciview improvement.

EPA's proposed rule also provides important flexibility to States by allowing them to propose alternate progress targets for EPA approval, as well. An alternate target can be proposed for a Class I area if the State can demonstrate that achieving the presumptive targets would not be reasonable. States can consider such factors as the availability and costs of controls, the time necessary for compliance, and the remaining useful life of the air pollution sources in determining whether achieving the target would be reasonable. Alternatively, some States may find they can go further and achieve up to a 2-3 deciview improvement at some parks or wilderness areas, or that programs already adopted or in the process of being implemented will to achieve such an improvement. The proposal suggests that States consult with other contributing States, the Federal land managers, and EPA in developing alternate targets.

Consistent with the requirements in the Clean Air Act, under EPA's proposal States would submit an initial revision to their implementation plans for visibility protection within 12 months after EPA issues the final regional haze rule. These initial implementation activities would require that State plans provide for adoption at a later date of any specific emission management strategies that may be necessary to meet the progress targets. These initial State plans would not require States to include emission reduction strategies, but merely provide for their future adoption. Initially, States would address a number of planning activities for implementing their regional haze programs. Since visibility impairment is caused primarily by fine particles, many planning activities could have benefits for implementation of the PM-2.5 standard where applicable as well. Our goal is to coordinate the State plan deadlines under the regional haze rule with those required for meeting the PM-2.5 standard. The proposal also encouraged States to work cooperatively to develop modeling approaches, emission inventories, and regional implementation strategies.

We also proposed that either every three or five years thereafter (EPA has taken comment on both options), States would review progress in each Class I area in relation to the relevant progress targets. States would also be expected to include a plan for expanding the current visibility monitoring network so that it is "representative" of all 156 Class I areas. EPA is working with the States and federal land managers to coordinate this network expansion with the deployment of the new monitoring network for the national air quality standard for fine particulates. EPA is evaluating ways to efficiently use resources such that existing and new visibility monitoring sites can also provide information about transport of fine particulate pollution as it relates to the newly revised national air quality standards. The new visibility monitoring sites should be deployed no later than December 1999.

Also as part of this initial State plan submittal, States would need to address important technical activities to pursue on a regional basis, such as improvements in particulate matter emission inventories and modeling capabilities, as well as plans for assessing sources potentially subject to Best Available Retrofit Technology (or BART). As specified in the Clean Air Act, sources potentially subject to BART are any sources, from one of 26 groups of industrial "source categories," which began operation between 1962 and 1977, and which have the potential to individually emit 250 tons per year or more of any pollutant that impairs visibility. The 26 source categories include such sources as electric utilities, smelters, petroleum refineries, and pulp and paper mills. If a State determines it is necessary to control any of these facilities, a BART determination would include an examination of the availability of control technologies, the costs of compliance, the energy and non-air environmental impacts of compliance, any pollution control equipment in use at the source, the remaining useful life of the source, as well as the degree of improvement in visibility as a result of compliance. As with all aspects of this proposal, we requested comments on how to develop BART and will incorporate these comments into the final rule.

Under the proposed regional haze rule, State plans would provide for adoption of emission management strategies concurrently with other strategies for PM-2.5 nonattainment areas. These submittals would include measures to reduce emissions from sources located within the State, including provisions addressing the BART requirement, if applicable. I would like to make two important points about the emissions reduction strategy. First, it can take into account air quality improvements due to implementation of other programs, such as the acid rain program, mobile source programs, or the national ambient air quality standards program. And second, the emission reduction strategy can include a mix of strategies that address emissions from both stationary and mobile sources. EPA's proposed rule does not focus on stationary sources only, as some have claimed. The proposed planning framework provides States with flexibility in designing their overall program for improving visibility. Process for Developing the Final Regional Haze Rule

EPA Administrator Browner signed the proposed haze rule on July 18, 1997. At that time, we made the proposed rule, as well as other related materials, available to the public on the Internet and through other means. It was published in the Federal Register on July 31. EPA held a public hearing that I chaired in Denver, Colorado, on September 18. In response to requests by the public, we extended the public comment period by about 6 weeks, to December 5, 1997. We have held other sessions around 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 also am actively participating in meetings of the Western Regional Air Partnership, 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. This is a voluntary organization, established by several States and Tribes, which EPA will be working with to address western visibility issues. Following our careful review of the comments, we intend to issue a final regional haze rule this summer. Conclusions

In summary, we believe that EPA's new proposed regional haze rule, when finalized, would 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 months, 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. 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.