Here's a chance to speak up for clean air

  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 nonprofit groups.


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 (HCN, 6/28/93).


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.


This 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 California.


With the commission's recommendations in hand, the EPA will have 18 months to write its regulations.


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 hotline, 800/659-5858).


The deadline for comments is June 10.





" J.B.