EPA in deal to move ahead on haze reduction plans

Wed Nov 9, 2011 10:25pm GMT

* Haze rules applies to old industrial facilities

* Plans to lower haze were due from states in 2007

By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON, Nov 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday said it has reached a deal with green groups to finalize more than 40 overdue state plans aimed at lowering haze in national parks and wilderness areas.

The agreement settles a lawsuit brought against the agency in August and lays out a schedule for the EPA to evaluate state haze plans over the next year. In cases where EPA does not approve a state proposal, the agency will have to develop a federal plan.

Environmental groups sued the EPA to force the agency to complete its review of regional haze plans, which would limit emissions from old industrial facilities that lower visibility in national parks.

The EPA issued a rule in 1999 that called for states to submit their plans to deal with haze pollution by 2007, but most states still had not completed their plans more than a year after that deadline.

Since then, states have made "significant progress," with nearly all states submitting the required plans, the EPA said.

Pollutants blamed for haze including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and particles can cause increased asthma symptoms and premature death.

"There should be no more delays in cleaning up the dirty air in these majestic places," said David Baron of Earthjustice, a law firm that represented the groups in the case over the haze plans.

The regional haze program requires stationary sources such as power plants, cement plants and large industrial boilers that are between 35 and 50 years old and may have impact on parks and wilderness areas to install pollution controls.

Some areas may be able to utilize controls already in place or that are planned for compliance with other EPA regulations to meet their haze requirements. (Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; editing by Bob Burgdorfer)