The Clean Air Act (“CAA”) requires the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to monitor and address visibility in national parks and wilderness areas. Visibility impairment in national parks and wilderness areas is called “regional haze,” and the EPA’s program to address this issue is called the “Regional Haze Program.” The Regional Haze Program requires the states, in coordination with the EPA and other federal agencies, to develop and implement air quality protection plans to reduce the pollution that causes visibility impairment.
These plans cover a ten-year period (referred to as a “planning period”). The goal is to return the national parks and wilderness areas to “natural visibility” by the year 2064. States, tribes, and five multi-jurisdictional regional planning organizations worked together to develop the technical basis for these first planning period plans. The first state plans for regional haze reduction for the first planning period were due in December 2007. A few of those plans are still being challenged in the courts or re-worked by the EPA and the states.
Comprehensive periodic revisions to these initial plans are currently due in 2021 (for the second planning period), then in 2028, and every ten years thereafter.
States are currently in the process of identifying the sources that need to be addressed in the second planning period plan. States are also in the midst of determining what controls or emissions reductions these sources will be required to have. For example, the states of Utah and Wyoming have notified the particular sources they believe could be covered by their second planning period plans. They are also receiving feedback on whether or not those sources should be included, and, if included, what emissions controls and limits would be appropriate.
Ray Quinney & Nebeker and its attorneys have been involved in the development, review, defense (in some cases), and challenge (in other cases) of these regional haze plans since 2008. Additional information regarding the regional haze plans for the second planning period and the EPA’s guidance documents are available here.
Blaine Rawson is the Chair of the Environmental and Natural Resources Section. He is one of the very limited number of attorneys in the Intermountain West with experience in regional haze matters, and has been involved in regional haze matters in seven different states. Mr. Rawson has been practicing environmental law, natural resources law, and commercial litigation for twenty-five years. His expertise covers the Clean Air Act, CERCLA, RCRA, and Clean Water Act litigation and counseling, as well as related state issues such as groundwater, underground storage tanks, and state air quality law.