Wilderness could mean regional haze programs
Next time haze settles over the Castle Valley, think what might happen if designated wilderness comes to the area.
Right now most of the areas of wilderness in the area are study areas, but once designated wilderness, that haze that settles in could be problem for everything from power plants to the vehicle that gets people to work./
"These programs of controlling regional haze has the potential to cost taxpayers and those who live near wilderness areas vast amounts of money," said Represenative Mike Noel (R) who represents District 73 and is from Kanab during the first week of the legislature. "Under the rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency designated wilderness areas must have class I air over them."
Regional haze has been an issue a number of years. While smog in big cities has been of concern for seven decades, regional haze outside populated areas had gone really unnoticed, particularly by the government, until the 1970s when issues about a power plant near to the Grand Canyon sparked controversy.
The movement began with protecting the air in and around national parks, but now is heading toward concerning itself with the atmosphere around wilderness areas as well.
The EPA and other Agencies have been monitoring visibility in national parks and wilderness areas since 1988. In 1999, the EPA announced a major effort to improve air quality in national parks and wilderness areas. The Regional Haze Rule calls for state and federal agencies to work together to improve visibility in 156 national parks and wilderness areas such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the Great Smokies and Shenandoah.
The rule requires the states, in coordination with the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and other interested parties, to develop and implement air quality protection plans to reduce the pollution that causes visibility impairment.
In Utah at present only the 802,858 acres of land within the five National Parks are covered, but as time passes, wilderness in Utah will be plugged into the formula too.
Of biggest concern to many is the power plants that lie adjacent to proposed wilderness area such as the Hunter Power Plant in Castle Dale and the Huntington Power Plant in Huntington Canyon.
"The plants in the state have been working hard to clean up the air over the years but all they get is negatives from groups that want clean air," stated Noel. "In the power plants a rule like this has the potential to cost owners of the plants $700 million per unit to bring them up to the standards to meet the regulations. This will cost everyone."
Groups advocating to eliminate regional haze say that the problem costs tourist areas dollars and that the pollution contained is bad for both the health of the people there and the fauna in the area.