Statement of Senator Craig Thomas
Hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency's Regional Haze Rule
April 23, 1998

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing today to discuss the EPA's proposed regional haze rule. This issue is of great importance to the entire nation, but particularly to the West and my state of Wyoming where we have some of the nation's cleanest air and our class I areas are among the most pristine in all of the United States.

On July 31, 1997, EPA issued a proposed regional haze rule that would set goals for improving visibility in 156 national parks. The rule was designed specifically to address visibility impairment in class I areas (national parks and wilderness areas) and because many of the pollutants that contribute to regional haze can be transported long distance, the proposal would require all 50 states to develop plans for reducing pollution. While EPA contends this proposal would not place new regulatory burdens on industry, it seems clear that restrictions on certain activities, such as agricultural and federal land practices, are inevitable in trying to reach the visibility goals under this proposal.

By issuing these rules, EPA ignored the work Congress did in 1990 when it amended the Clean Air Act and authorized the EPA to establish a visibility transport region for the Grand Canyon National Park, and created the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission (GCVTC). A Commission that was comprised of many stakeholders -- EPA, federal land managers, western governors, tribal leaders, environmental groups to name a few -- including my state of Wyoming. EPA ignored the 5 years of hard work these stakeholders spent developing the most comprehensive scientific and policy study of haze along the Colorado Plateau, and most importantly, their consensus-based recommendations. I find it very unsettling that all the time, resources and effort have been virtually ignored.

Similarly, as my colleagues are aware, on July 18 1997, President Clinton announced his support for tightening National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for particulate matter and ozone. This was in spite of the fact that more that 250 members of Congress, 27 Governors, small businesses labor groups, the agricultural community and National Conference of Mayors expressed opposition to the new regulations. Even several government agencies expressed serious doubt.

Furthermore, last year, the Clinton Administration unveiled the United States position on global climate change, which will have negative impacts on U.S. jobs and our economic competitiveness. While developed countries would be legally bound to reduce their greenhouse gases, developing countries like China, India, Mexico and South Korea would not be required to do anything. My point Mr. Chairman, is this: what we are seeing form this Administration is one extreme proposition after another. American businesses and industries have made great strides to improve air quality. And further pollution reduction will take place once the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments are fully implemented. Nevertheless, the EPA continues to add layer upon layer of regulatory requirements on the backs of states.

I made my concerns very clear last October when the Subcommittee on Forests and Public Land Management of the Senate Energy Committee held a hearing on this very subject. I am interested in hearing these witnesses to see if the concerns outlined at that hearing, have been addressed. Since issuance of the proposed rule, all but one state has requested modifications. I would also like to hear if these requests and thousands of other requests and concerns submitted by various interest groups have been acknowledged and what changes have been made to answer them. It is vital that changes are made to these proposed rules in truly working to improve visibility in areas that already have the best air and quality of life available.