In a letter sent this week, Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson asked the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw its proposed actions on regional haze and instead work with the State of Wyoming and other stakeholders on a path forward. Simpson, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction over EPA's budget, is concerned with the economic impact on Southeastern Idaho of an overly aggressive federal plan to address regional haze.
"I am writing to express my strong concerns with the impact the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Wyoming regional haze goals could have on Western states such as Idaho," wrote Simpson in his letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "It appears to me that your agency has adopted as set of goals and timelines that far exceed what was intended by Congress or is necessary to address concerns related to visibility in wilderness areas and national parks."
The Regional Haze Program was developed as part of the Clean Air Act to improve visibility in areas such as national parks by 2064. The long timeframe for addressing regional haze was meant to accommodate state-based actions and avoid the economic impacts of an accelerated implementation. Regional haze rules are not a health-based standard. Instead, they are designed to improve visibility.
Simpson stressed the negative economic impact new regional haze rules could have on the regional economy. "Unfortunately, the combination of an extremely compressed regulatory timeframe and a more aggressive federal implementation plan will lead to significant price increases for electricity customers and an unacceptable impact on the regional economy -- with little to no visibility improvements in an area of the nation that already is among the best in visibility," wrote Simpson.
"I am writing to request that you withdraw EPA's overly aggressive approach to regional haze and instead work with the State of Wyoming and others to utilize the Wyoming Regional Haze Implementation Plan as the appropriate path forward," concluded Simpson.
Simpson also included language in his House Interior and Environment Appropriations bill for FY14 that directs EPA to review and take public comments on the air quality model that it relies on for regional haze decisions. EPA is using an air quality model from 2007 despite the availability of newer updates to that model and alternative models that States rely on to develop their regional haze plans. Simpson believes the public comments could demonstrate to EPA that they need to use a different version. As States and EPA continue to use different versions, they will continue to reach different conclusions about how best to meet regional haze goals. That bill is currently under committee consideration.
Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter wrote to the EPA last month with similar concerns.