Gov. Mike Leavitt renewed complaints Thursday that the federal government is ignoring a plan to reduce air pollution that it ordered Western states to develop.
He told the Senate that the Environmental Protection Agency is instead pushing a different plan to reduce haze in national parks and wilderness areas that would unnecessarily cost much more.Leavitt was vice chairman of the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission created by Congress in 1990 to work with industry, environmental, Indian and government groups on how to reduce haze affecting the Grand Canyon.
After five years of work, it called for setting clean-air achievement standards by region. But if smaller areas within the region could achieve even cleaner air, they could sell clean-air credits to other areas and industry to allow them to exceed regional standards.
However, the EPA has proposed a system that does not allow swapping of clean-air credits and makes all areas meet the same standards.
Leavitt last year told Congress the EPA plan could cost twice as much.
He said the Western states' plan of credit swapping would allow cheapest-available strategies to achieve clean air regionally (such as phasing out one dirty plant and selling credits). But requiring all areas to meet the same standards will require much more expensive strategies in many areas.
Leavitt renewed such complaints at a hearing before the Senate Environment Subcommittee on Clean Air Thursday.
"We want to protect our Western skies using approaches that are cheaper and better," he testified. "The issue here is not about wheth-er we want a visibility regulation or not, it is about developing the best way for protecting visibility."
Leavitt warned that if recommendations the federal government ordered states to help develop are ignored, it will stymie "other collaborative processes in the environmental arena." He added, "Solving problems rather than just complying with programs should be rewarded."
Leavitt also warned that imposing one-size-fits-all environmental rules often lead to years of fighting in courts, while the plan Western states developed was supported by virtually all major players and could bring results quickly.
"Our Western parks and wilderness areas are there to be enjoyed by all Americans. We will never protect them by engaging in endless bickering and litigation," he said.