Pact promises cleaner canyon air

  • Tourists line the rim of the Grand Canyon

    Gary Ladd
 

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK - As thunder rumbled in the distance and a hawk wheeled overhead, Grand Canyon Park Superintendent Rob Arnberger stood on the canyon's rim and stared into a bank of television cameras.

He said what a year ago he doubted he would ever get to tell the world: "Today we are saying "no more." Today marks the first step in a long journey to put those words into practice. The eyes of the world are not upon us, but on what we are here to protect."

The occasion was the June 10 announcement, by a Western commission of governors, Indian tribes and their advisors, of a strategy to restore clean air over the 16 national parks and wilderness areas of the Colorado Plateau.

Many here, including utility executives, conservationists and county commissioners, called the promise "historic."

"I was not always sure this would succeed," admitted Felicia Marcus, senior EPA official. "This is a new way." She was not alone in her doubts, which began five years ago when Congress created a regional air quality commission of Westerners and told it to find a solution to the manmade pollution that sullied the air. But on this day she was full of hope.

Highlights of the proposed air-quality cleanup blueprint include:

* An agreement by 17 electric power companies on the Colorado Plateau to slash sulfur stack emissions by 50 to 70 percent by 2040. If they do not cut these emissions 13 percent by the year 2000, mandatory caps will be enforced, although companies can buy and sell pollution credits to bring themselves into compliance;

* Accelerated studies will begin at Southern California Edison's coal-fired Mojave Power Plant, 50 miles upwind of Grand Canyon, to determine whether emission "scrubbers' similar to those being installed at the Navajo Generating Station should be installed;

* Incentives, similar to those offered in the 1980s, will be reinstated to builders of energy-efficient buildings;

* Renewable energy sources for power production will be supported;

* Low-emission vehicle standards, starting in 2001, will be supported on a nationwide basis.

* Clean-fuel demonstration zones will be established;

* Standards for heavy-duty vehicles will be developed;

* Engine-emission regulations for new off-road vehicles will be supported.

Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt said the pact "shows that we in the West can develop solutions without prescriptive dictates from Washington. What we have is a balance of Western interests working on a Western problem."

Yet Rob Smith, the Sierra Club's representative in the Southwest, said the agreement was remarkable for demonstrating the willingness of some Westerners to set up and follow regulations, in this case by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The commission's strong stance toward reducing air pollution would not have been predicted last fall. What seemed to move members in the final days of intense deliberation were the hundreds of oral and written comments from private citizens, businesses and local governments, said Bill Auberle, chairman of the commission's Public Advisory Committee.

After reading letters from the public, he said, "We revised several sections of the report, including proposals for preventing pollution and reducing emissions at large industrial facilities."

Ambitious as the plan is, some Westerners are disappointed that there was no directive to the huge coal-fired power plant owned by Southern California Edison in Laughlin, Nev., one of the largest polluters upwind of Grand Canyon. The problem of major smelters in Mexico was also not addressed.

Recommendations of the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission now go to the EPA, which has 18 months to write regulations. The recommendations are available from the Western Governors' Association. Call 800/659-5858 for a copy.

James Bishop writes in Sedona, Arizona.

High Country News Classifieds
  • COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR
    Introduction: Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with offices located in Kanab and Escalante, Utah. We are committed to the conservation...
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    For more information visit www. wyofile.com/careers/
  • THRIVING LOCAL HEALTH FOOD STORE FOR SALE
    Turn-key business opportunity. Successful well established business with room to grow. Excellent highway visibility.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    For more information, visit www.wyofile.com/careers/
  • SONORAN INSTITUTE, CEO
    Chief Executive Officer Tucson, Arizona ABOUT SONORAN INSTITUTE Since 1990, the Sonoran Institute has brought together diverse interests to successfully forge effective and enduring conservation...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a high-impact, nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 27-year legacy using...
  • PROJECT MANAGER
    Position Summary Join our Team at the New Mexico Land Conservancy! We're seeking a Project Manager who will work to protect land and water across...
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT AND MARKETING
    High Country News seeks a Director of Product and Marketing to join our senior team during an exciting chapter of innovation and growth. This individual...
  • WILDLIFE HAVEN
    Beautiful acreage with Teton Creek flowing through it. Springs and ponds, lots of trees, moose and deer. Property has barn. Easy access. approx. 33 acres.
  • ARIZONA CONSERVATION CORPS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Arizona Conservation Corps is seeking a Program Director in Flagstaff or Tucson
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...