Oregonians and visitors to our state enjoy scenic landscapes, adventurous outdoor activities, and abundant wildlife. All of these features are dependent on the abundance of clean air. For decades, Oregon leaders have focused on maintaining and improving the air quality throughout the state through several programs and initiatives. Oregon’s Regional Haze State Implementation Plan is our state’s plan to meet requirements within the EPA’s 1999 Regional Haze Rule to protect air quality and visibility in our nation’s national parks and wilderness areas.
What is “regional haze”?
Federal regulation 40 CFR 51.301 defines regional haze as:
“Visibility impairment that is caused by the emission of air pollutants from numerous anthropogenic sources located over a wide geographic area. Such sources include, but are not limited to, major and minor stationary sources, mobile sources, and area sources.”
Impairment happens due to particle and gas emissions that absorb and extinguish the light, thereby decreasing visibility.
What is included in Oregon’s Regional Haze State Implementation Plan?
The first Regional Haze plan was implemented in 1999 and included a comprehensive review of visibility conditions in 12 areas designated with priority status in Oregon. This plan projected statewide emissions and visibility standards for the next ten years and identified milestones to achieve improvements by 2018. The subsequent update to the original plan published in 2017 uses 2018 data as a baseline.
The 12 designated areas are:
- Mt. Hood Wilderness Area
- Mt. Jefferson Wilderness area
- Mr. Washington Wilderness area
- Three Sisters Wilderness Area
- Diamond Peak Wilderness Area
- Crater Lake National Park
- Mountain Lakes Wilderness Area
- Gearhart Mountain Wilderness Area
- Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area
- Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Area
- Eagle Cap Wilderness Area
- Hells Canyon Wilderness Area
In addition to these 12 areas, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area is also included as an area of focus because Congress designated it as a National Scenic Area in 1986, and the Columbia River Gorge Commission who administers provisions related to this designation felt it would benefit from the Plan.
The Plan includes strategies for monitoring the air quality using the IMPROVE monitoring network. This system measures, characterizes, and reports aerosol data for long-term progress tracking. Each state must implement tactics to improve the visibility on the most impaired days–the worst 20%–without degrading visibility on the clearest days for the next 40 years. Adjustments are made to accommodate wildfire conditions.
What types of issues are addressed in the Plan?
In the original plan, five sources were identified as contributing to regional haze and worthy of retrofit technology. Potential mitigation strategies are evaluated based on the cost of the controls, the time necessary to install them, the remaining useful life of control measures, and the effect the controls will have on energy and other non-air environmental impacts. Those sources were:
- Portland General Electric (PGE) Boardman
- PGE Beaver
- Georgia Pacific Wauna
- International Paper in Springfield
- Amalgamated Sugar Plant in Nyssa
The Amalgamated Sugar Plant shut down permanently in 2016 while the other four sources continued to take steps for improvement and participate in the monitoring program. The Plan also notes collaborative efforts between Oregon and bordering states such as Washington, Idaho, and Nevada, where businesses impact air quality across borders.
For the next decade, 32 facilities were screened for emission controls. Additionally, the 2017 report documents other programs the state will use to reduce harmful emissions, such as smoke management and prescribed burning, transportation emissions reduction programs, and open burning restrictions.
Where can I find more information about the Plan?
You can find the full text of the Oregon Regional Haze State Implementation Plan on Oregon’s website.
Are you interested in learning more about clean air initiatives in Oregon?
The Rogue Valley Clean Cities Coalition’s mission is to enhance the livability of the Rogue Valley. We promote and educate on alternate fuels, seek to decrease dependency on petroleum, and promote clean air and water in the Rogue Valley via alternate fuels. Contact us today for more information!