Guess Whose Brain Storm:
copyright © 1996, Electric Nevada
|A lot of Nevadans learned for the first time this week that haze in the Grand Canyon could, under new federal law, eventually mean severe new air-quality restrictions on the entire Silver State, including northern Nevada.|
| And that's despite the fact
that 1) virtually none of the pollution in the Grand
Canyon comes from Nevada, and 2) most of the park's haze
comes from natural sources -- the largest being light
bouncing off air molecules.
So where did such a law come from? Whose idea was this plan, which state environment officials say could have a large and negative effect on the state economy?
It's not being discussed loudly by those same state officials, but the lead author of the key provisions was the most powerful man in Nevada politics -- U.S. Senator Harry Reid.
According to research done by Electric Nevada, Sen. Reid first announced his idea January 29, 1990 on the floor of the U.S. Senate, during the debates on amendments to the federal Clean Air Act.
Citing a poll where 74% of Americans said they agreed that "protecting the environment is so important that requirements and standards cannot be too high, and continuing environmental improvements must be made regardless of the costs," Nevada's powerful senior senator said "there needs to be something in this legislation to address the visibility issue" at the Grand Canyon park.
Reid told the Senate floor he had spoken about his desire to Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana), chairman of the Senate committee in charge of Clean Air Act amendments, and that while "I certainly recognize that many people have problems with the legislation, we also have to recognize how the American people feel."
Five weeks later, on March 7, 1990, Reid announced he would offer his own amendments. Two weeks after that, on March 20, Reid appeared on the senate floor, inquiring about an "amendment to be offered by Senator [Brock] Adams [D-WA], and myself..." The next day the amendment was formally offered and passed, as section 169 of the Clean Air Act, authorizing the federal Environmental Protection Agency to establish a Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission.
"Congress hereby declares as a national goal," announced the amendment, "the prevention of any future, and the remedying of existing, impairment of visibility in mandatory class I Federal areas which impairment results from manmade air pollution."
Paragraph A of section 169 explicitly directed the eventual commission to consider "the establishment of clean air corridors, in which additional restrictions on increases in emissions may be appropriate to protect visibility in affected class I areas," a list of 16 federal parks.
Paragraph B of section 169 directed the commission to consider "the imposition of" existing federal "pollution reduction measures" to "the construction of new major stationary sources or major modifications to existing sources in .. clean air corridors..."
Together the two provisions established a process where new federal controls on Nevada businesses -- even under scenarios like now, when local emissions do not violate existing standards -- become possible. That process is the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission, which is charged with making recommendations regarding regulations to the EPA.
As a briefing paper published last year the commission said, "Congress specifically directed the Commission to consider applying Part D requirements [i.e., controls] to areas supplying clear days [to the parks]."
Lew Dodgion, administrator of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, says some of the recommendations emerging from the Transport Commission's public advisory committee already could have a big negative effect on the Nevada economy, while other recommendations "don't focus on the problem."
"We need to focus on the area where the problem is and that's Arizona, California and Mexico," he said.
But another source inside the state environmental division was even more emphatic.
"It's frightening to see what's gone on here," he said, adding that though the EPA was charged under Senator Reid's original amendment with establishing a visibility transport commission to look at Grand Canyon visibility, the EPA, on its own, expanded the whole area of study -- and thus, of commission recommendations and potential new EPA control -- to the entire Colorado plateau east of Nevada and visibility in 15 other federal parks there.
Thus, with prevailing west-to-east winds, haze in Colorado parks could also provide EPA justification
for imposing Los Angeles-type pollution controls on
Nevada manufacturing, mining, agricultural and
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