January 01, 2016

International air emissions impact states’ ability to achieve Clean Air Act visibility goals

P. Stephen Gidiere, III and David W. Mitchell

When most environmental practitioners think of international environmental issues, they think of climate change or ocean resources or other complex issues that require a global response. However, international environmental issues arise right here at home and have a very real impact on domestic regulatory decisions and obligations. A prime example is the regional haze program, first enacted in 1977 when Congress amended the Clean Air Act to address visibility in Class I areas (i.e., national parks and wilderness areas). The 1977 amendments “declare[d] as a national goal the prevention of any future, and the remedying of any existing, impairment of visibility in mandatory class I Federal areas [resulting] from manmade air pollution.” 42 U.S.C. § 7491(a)(1). Following additional revisions by Congress to the regional haze program in 1990, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated its regional haze rule in 1999, establishing 2064 as the target date for achieving “natural” visibility conditions at all Class I areas. EPA further revised the rule in 2005 to allow certain aspects to be satisfied by participation in the Clean Air Interstate Rule and subsequently the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

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