On April 25, 2016, EPA proposed revisions to its “Regional Haze Rule.” Promulgated under the Clean Air Act, this Rule requires states to submit plans to protect visibility at certain federal lands, such as national parks, and to update them periodically. EPA asserts that the revisions will “streamline, strengthen, and clarify” portions of the Rule and will apply to the next set of Regional Haze plans (originally due in 2018 but now proposed to be due in 2021).
Last week, the Attorneys General of Arkansas, Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Carolina jointly filed comments on EPA’s proposed amendments. The eight Attorneys General expressed concern that the proposed revisions afford too much authority to Federal Land Managers, and would deprive states of their traditional responsibility for deciding when visibility problems are “reasonably attributable” to a specific source or set of sources. They argue that EPA’s proposed revisions would move away from the use of measurable and objective criteria for assessing visibility impairment and for determining the least and most impaired days.
The Attorneys General also focused on EPA’s proposed push back of the deadline for the submission of State Implementation Plans for the second planning period. EPA says that the delay will allow states to coordinate their Regional Haze Rule planning with their planning for other regulations, such as MATS and the Clean Power Plan. But the eight Attorneys General countered that the coordinated deadlines improperly pressure states to comply regulatory programs that are subject to ongoing legal challenges.
EPA received over three hundred comments on the proposed revisions to the Regional Haze Rule (the public comment period is now closed). The commenters included environmental officials from several other states, as well as industry and environmental groups, a number of which supported at least some aspects of EPA’s proposed revisions.