Don't forget Friends of the Earth

  Dear HCN,

As the former Colorado Plateau regional representative over a 10-year period (1974-1984) of Friends of the Earth, I applaud the efforts of the Grand Canyon Trust to involve local residents in resolving the region's environmental issues (HCN, 4/4/94). Not every regional controversy, of course, such as the once-proposed massive coal strip mine to be sited below the overlooks of Bryce Canyon National Park, can be successfully resolved through consensus.

It may be instructive to add a historical perspective to the Grand Canyon Trust's "negotiating a settlement with the Navajo Power Plant to slash sulfur dioxide emissions by 90 percent by 1999."

If I am to believe the letter in my files from the congressional staffer most intimately involved with this subject, the issue of visibility impairment caused by coal-fired power plants in the Colorado Plateau initially came to the attention of federal regulators in 1975, when they saw a slide presentation I'd developed, "Visibility Degradation in the Southwestern Parklands." It focused on the impacts to regional visibility caused by the Navajo Power Plant.

Seven years later, a TV audience of millions watched a PBS documentary, "The Regulators, Our Invisible Government," which traced the history of the 1977 Clean Air Act Amendments by following the development of the visibility issue through the legislative and federal regulatory processes.

While that film made for good television by enhancing my role of photographic documentarian to "former park ranger goes to Washington on a mission from God to save the national parks," the show overlooked the most important aspect of the whole story. It was Friends of the Earth's clean air lobbyist, Rafe Pomerance, who conceived of and wrote a visibility protection amendment. He also arranged for me to speak to key Washington, D.C., audiences on behalf of the canyon country as he steered the amendment through Congress and later led the charge to block efforts to undermine it during the regulatory process.

The Visibility Protection Amendment (Section 169A) of the Clean Air Act of 1977 and its subsequent regulations were specifically written to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions at the Navajo Power Plant. Any later accomplishment towards that end owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the vision and leadership of Rafe Pomerance in providing the legal foundation for that opportunity. The installation of sulfur dioxide controls at the Navajo Power Plant represents to me, at least, dramatic affirmation that the environmental movement functions most effectively when local grass-roots activists and career professionals work together in an atmosphere based on common concerns, mutual respect and shared authority.

Gordon Anderson

Manitou Springs, Colorado

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