Statement of Senator Dirk Kempthorne
Clean Air Subcommittee: Hearing on Regional Haze
April 23, 1998

Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the opportunity to address the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed rule on Regional Haze. Quality of life is something we prize highly in Idaho, where we are fortunate to have some of the cleanest air and most spectacular vistas in the nation. In Idaho, people are enthusiastic about finding innovative ways to preserve the quality of our environment. But we are adamant about crafting solutions which target our unique environmental challenges and make the best use of the resources we have available.

EPA is mandating states to meet a new federal standard of one "deciview" improvement in visibility within 10 or 15 years. For states like Idaho, that standard is not appropriate. And while the rule offers states the option of developing alternative reasonable progress targets, it does so without providing the necessary guidelines and funding. States like Idaho will be forced to develop their own tools which EPA may or may not find satisfactory a few years down the road. Under EPA's proposal, alternatives to the deciview standard are expensive and logistically unfeasible. Idaho's Air Quality Program is already over˙2Dworked and underfunded. This new regional haze program adds a number of new tasks for overburdened state agencies, such as the revision of State Implementation Plans every three years. This unfunded mandate sets my state up for failure.

But funding and alternatives aren't the only obstacles complicating the federal regional haze rule. Believe it or not, the federal government is a major contributor to haze in Idaho. On the one hand, Idaho is being asked to make major economic sacrifices to achieve that little bit of improvement we could make towards natural visibility conditions. At the same time, the federal government is using prescribed burns as a forest management tool. These fires are the single biggest contributor to haze in Idaho ˙2D~ yet federal land managers want to be exempted! The Forest Service is currently burning the hills just north of Boise, and I've already heard complaints from folks in Idaho about how the smoke is affecting health and visibility. Now, I understand the reasons behind using prescribed fire as a forest management tool, but the regional haze regulations need to address the impact of prescribed fires on reasonable progress targets in the West. Otherwise, it makes little sense to ask Idaho to work hard for improvements that are totally masked by the kind of haze which is currently clogging Boise. The Forest Service should consider alternatives which are more consistent with the regional haze rule, like selective harvest. At the very least, one hand of the federal government needs to take into account what the other hand is doing as we consider these regulations. Again, Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity. I look forward to seeing these issues addressed as we work toward preserving visibility in our national treasures.