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
  • WATERSHED PROGRAMS COORDINATOR
    Are you looking for a positive and success oriented work environment, the opportunity to join a (small but) dynamic group of people supporting watershed activities...
  • BACKCOUNTRY FILM FESTIVAL MANAGER
    Boise-based Winter Wildlands Alliance is looking for an experienced and highly motivated individual to organize our annual Backcountry Film Festival and Tour and coordinate additional...
  • LAND CONSERVATION MANAGER
    SUMMARY Leads, administers and manages the land conservation, conservation easement stewardship, and property management activities of the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department within...
  • CLEAN ENERGY PROGRAM ATTORNEY, NEVADA
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking a Staff Attorney who is passionate about Western communities and the protection of the natural environment to...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Deschutes River Conservancy in Bend, Oregon
  • WATER POLICY ANALYST WITH WRA (BOULDER)
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates seeks a passionate Water Policy Analyst with knowledge of western water issues to join our Healthy Rivers Team to strengthen...
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST
    9+ acre inholding. Passive solar strawbale off the grid and next to the Continental Divide Trail in ponderosa pine/doug fir forest at 7400.
  • HIRING BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER DIRECTOR
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    If you are deeply committed to public service and would like to become part of our high performing, passionate and diverse team, NCAT is looking...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...