Canyon's pollution outlook hazy

The Associated Press

PHOENIX Environmentalists say some scenarios offered in a plan to clean up the haze over the Grand Canyon and other Western parks won't do enough to get rid of the dirty air over the Colorado Plateau.

The plan was drafted by the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission, which is made up of governors and their representatives from eight states and chaired by Gov. Fife Symington.

Its recommendations include capping emissions, requiring industries to install scrubbers on smoke stacks, changing fuel standards, or doing nothing at all, which bothers some environmental groups.

''They're basically saying the pollution won't get much worse if we do nothing and it won't get much better if we do everything possible,'' said Eric Howard, a spokesman for Grand Canyon Trust, a conservation organization based in Flagstaff.

''People will not come to the Grand Canyon if they cannot see across it.''

The regional haze that mars views at the canyon and other Western parks comes from a variety of sources, some as far away as Mexico, including automobiles, power plants, copper smelters and prescribed burns designed to cut down on wildfires in the forests, the report's project manager, John Leary, said yesterday.

The report offers eight scenarios to diminish the haze, the most drastic of which would improve visibility by 25 percent by the year 2010. Others would take up to 30 years longer, Leary said. Costs would be between $70 million and $1.1 billion, he said.

Under one scenario, Western states would let provisions of the Clean Air Act, which is already in place, take care of the regional haze. Environmentalists say that is unacceptable.

Rob Smith, the Sierra Club's southwest representative, said it assumes Los Angeles will have its air pollution cleaned up in 14 years. It also counts on 11 Western power plants to shut down by the year 2040, he said.

''I think they're being unrealistically optimistic on what they call their baseline scenario,'' said Smith, who serves on a public advisory committee for the report. ''I think that's a long time to wait for something that could be fixed right away,'' he said.

Jim Souby, executive director of the Western Governors' Association, said none of the possibilities outlined in the study has been adopted.

''Nobody's reached any conclusions as to what recommendations are going to happen. It doesn't matter so much as what's on the table now,'' Souby said.

The commission developed the six-inch-thick report over the last year and a half. The Environmental Protection Agency created the commission to figure out how to protect visibility in the 16 western parks and wilderness areas on the Colorado Plateau.

The commission hired two contractors to research the environmental controls costs and project what kind of visibility improvement would result, Leary said.

After 17 public hearings are conducted over the next two weeks, the commission will rewrite the report and present it again for public comment in March. It will forward a final report to the EPA in May.

The EPA has a year to determine a plan after the commission has submitted the report. The states then have a year and a half to implement them, Leary said.

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