Nineteen years ago Congress directed the EPA to clean up "any existing impairment of visibility" in the nation's cleanest areas, called Class 1, and prevent further degradation caused by pollution from man-made sources such as coal-fired power plants and vehicles.
The Environmental Protection Agency
failed to act. It will be 1999 before any improvement takes place
at the Grand Canyon, and that move - installing scrubbers on the
Navajo power plant in Arizona - was triggered by lawsuits filed by
the Environmental Defense Fund and Grand Canyon Trust, two
Because of that dismal record,
Congress tried something new in 1990. It established a wide-ranging
group, the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission, and told
it to improve visibility on the Colorado Plateau, the same goal
that has eluded federal and state agencies for nearly two decades
The commission takes in parts or
all of nine Western states and is made up of their governors (Idaho
opted out) plus leaders from the Hopi, Navajo, Acoma and Hualapai
tribes and Columbia River Inter-tribal Fish Commission. Non-voting
members include the Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service, BLM and the EPA.
large group has held regional hearings and collected written
comments in preparation for recommendations this June.
Environmentalists hope for a crackdown on the 17 coal-fired power
plants on the plateau, particularly the Mohave plant which emits
40,000 tons a year of sulfur dioxide 50 miles upwind of the Grand
Canyon. Power from the Mohave plant goes mostly to Southern
With the commission's
recommendations in hand, the EPA will have 18 months to write its
To send written comments or for
more information, contact the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport
Commission, c/o the Western Governors' Association, 600 17 St.,
Suite 1705, S. Tower, Denver, CO 80202-5452 (303/623-9378 or its
The deadline for
comments is June 10.