Utah Readies Plan to Cut Haze in National Parks

Utah Readies Plan to Cut Haze in National Parks

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah is ready to submit its plan for combatting haze in national parks.

Gov. Olene Walker signed the state's plan to establish a cap on haze-forming air pollution from Western power plants and industrial sources on Friday. The plan will be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency.

"Utah's plan is a significant milestone because it represents a regional approach to reducing haze in the West's most celebrated national parks," Walker said.

The plan, 12 years in the making, is part of a multistate effort known as the Western Regional Air Partnership that focuses primarily on reducing sulfur dioxide, mostly from coal-fired industrial plants. Automobiles, forest fires and dust from roads also contribute to haze.

"This is a celebration for all states and tribes in the West that we've made another major accomplishment," said Dianne Nielson, director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

The plan's goal is to reduce sulfur dioxide from uncontrolled Western power plants by 50 to 70 percent by 2040. The pollution cap would affect new power plants.

There is provision for a sulfur dioxide market-trading program. Plants with low emissions could sell their credits for emissions reductions to plants that were exceeding limits.

The EPA approved the partnership's agreement in May.

The partnership, which is made up of states, tribes and federal agencies, Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission to develop ways to help states take control and solve their own pollution problems. The chairman of the commission was former Gov. Mike Leavitt, who recently became head of the EPA.

"We recognized all the way through this process that not any one state could address the problem of regional haze," Nielson said. "We needed to deal with it on a regional level but allow individual states to develop plans that work best for them."

Environmentalists have applauded the WRAP agreement as a move in the right direction, but have reserved judgment on whether it will actually work until individual states take action.

Utah is believed to be the first state to submit its plan. Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, California and Wyoming also have agreed to implement the strategy, Colorado has opted out and therefore must develop a plan to meet the national standard targeted for 2007.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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