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March 23, 2016

Subcommittee Democrats Emphasize Benefits of Combating Regional Haze

(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing to examine the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to combat regional haze. Manmade sources of air pollution that contribute to regional haze include motor vehicles, electric utilities and industrial fuel burning, manufacturing operations, and wood fires. This air pollution causes decreased visibility and poorer air quality, and can have a noticeable impact when visiting national parks across the country. In 1977, the Clean Air Act was amended so that visibility within national parks and wilderness areas is protected and improved as to address the issue of regional haze.

Ranking Member of the Environment Subcommittee, Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), said in her opening statement, “On August 25th of this year the National Parks Service will celebrate their centennial. So it is fitting that we are discussing EPA’s efforts to reduce regional haze and maintain the scenic outlook of our most treasured locations. I know some consider EPA’s efforts to improve air quality under the Clean Air Act, including the regional haze rule, to be a ‘war on coal.’ Earlier this month, Oregon became the first state to enact bipartisan legislation to eliminate the use of coal-fired power by 2035. We did this because coal-fired power plants are some of our biggest polluters, and if we are going to make significant progress in combating air pollution in the future then we need to transition to cleaner sources of energy now. Such a transition will provide economic opportunities, improve public health, and preserve the majesty of our National Parks for future generations.”

Democratic Members and witnesses examined the health benefits gained in addition to increased visibility from the abatement of regional haze. Furthermore, they discussed the oversight responsibilities the EPA has over state efforts in addressing regional haze pollution.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said, “Nearly 40 years ago, Congress called on EPA to implement a program that would address air pollution in the most iconic and unique places in our country – our National Parks. Members of Congress wanted to ensure that future generations would be able to enjoy these scenic vistas and that their view would not be marred by a discolored haze.

“While the nation’s air quality has improved over the years – in part because of programs like the one we are discussing today – there is still more that needs to be done. When someone visits a National Park today they miss out on nearly 50 miles of scenery because of regional haze. This pollution doesn’t just spoil the view; it also has a negative impact on public health.”

During her opening statement Ranking Member Bonamici noted,“This slide shows a side-by-side comparison of the Great Smokey Mountains, illustrating the air pollution that existed in 1990, the clearing that occurred in 2010, and the goal of natural visibility that still needs to be achieved. In 1990, a park visitor could only see 25 miles out, in 2010 they could see 46 miles, and when we get to natural visibility conditions they will be able to see 112 miles of this magnificent mountain range.”


Mr. Bruce Polkowsky, Environmental Policy Consultant and former EPA Environmental Engineer and National Park Service Senior Policy Analyst said in his testimony, “EPA’s regional haze program provides a vital and enduring framework, anchored in science and reflecting years of intergovernmental partnership, for States, Tribes and stakeholders to work toward the common goal of improving and protecting the scenic treasures of America’s most precious lands.”