Visibility and the Regional Haze Rule

EM – April 2022: This month, EM takes a close look at the U.S. Regional Haze Rule and the progress on visibility that has been made to date.
by Anthony J. Schroeder

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Regional Haze Rule establishes a comprehensive visibility protection program for certain parks and wilderness areas, referred to collectively as Class I areas, and requires states to establish and periodically update reasonable progress goals toward achieving natural visibility conditions in these areas by 2064. This long-term goal is to be achieved through a series of planning periods, which occur in 10-year increments, in which progress toward the goal is evaluated. During each planning period, states must ensure that reasonable progress is being made through control and emission limitation feasibility assessments. If controls or limits are determined to be appropriate, new requirements are put into place to implement them.

The second planning period is currently ongoing. States have submitted or are working toward submitting their analyses and plans for reasonable progress—State Implementation Plans (SIPs)—to EPA for review. As EPA reviews these analyses, the agency will be under pressure to make decisions and move the process forward as indicated by a February 2022 Notice of Intent to Sue letter sent to EPA by Sierra Club, along with other environmental groups. The implementation process involves coordination between EPA, state regulatory agencies, regulated sources, and the public, and it will require a considerable amount of work on every-one's part to close out the second planning period.

The Regional Haze Rule on its face has a straightforward goal: to improve visibility in Class I areas to natural levels. However, the implementation of the rule and the details of how to achieve that goal can be complex. The articles in this issue of EM provide insight into the history of the Regional Haze Rule, what visibility improvements have been achieved to date, and what big questions remain with respect to the second planning period.

Continue reading the full April 2022 issue of EM.


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