DEP’S Plan to Restore Visibility in National Parks and Wildnerness Areas Approved by EPA

TALLAHASSEE –The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a full approval of Florida’s 2012 regional haze plan, a part of the state’s long-term strategy to reduce pollution and restore visibility in national parks and wilderness areas.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s plan targets visibility-impairing pollutants — predominantly sulfur dioxide — for reduction. Florida is the only state that determined the appropriate reductions on a source-by-source basis, which resulted in a pollution reduction plan tailored to the state’s needs. EPA’s approval of the plan makes it the first of its kind.

“This success is due to diligent efforts by state and federal air pollution experts to evaluate emission impacts from dozens of sources,” said Brian Accardo, Director of the Division of Air Resource Management. “When state and federal partners collaborate this effectively, the result is a technically and legally sound solution that has the buy-in of affected facilities.”

The goal of the Clean Air Act’s regional haze program is to reduce pollution so that visibility, or “visual range,” in the nation’s parks and wilderness improves. Haze, described as a veil of white or brown hanging in the air, can be caused by a variety of natural and human-made sources, including wildfires, motor vehicles and industrial facilities. It can also be caused by sources many miles away, which is why the program has a regional focus. One of Florida’s national parks to benefit from the state’s regional haze plan is Everglades National Park, which received over 1.1 million visitors last year.

Florida had originally sought EPA’s approval of a regional haze plan in 2010.  That plan, like many other state regional haze plans, relied in part on emission reductions associated with a federal cap and trade program designed to address interstate air pollution. The EPA’s “Clean Air Interstate Rule” and its replacement “Cross-State Air Pollution Rule” have both since been invalidated in federal court, leaving states struggling to fully implement their regional haze plans.

Florida, however, decided last year to forgo reliance upon federal rules to address regional haze in order to bring certainty to its pollution reduction plan. This resulted in a one-of-a-kind strategy with source-specific requirements that are not affected by litigation over federal rules. Under Florida’s approved plan, emissions reductions from two units alone will eliminate around 20,000 tons per year of sulfur dioxide — a quarter of statewide power plant emissions in 2012 — and 5,000 tons per year of nitrogen oxides.

As recently reported by the Department, in 2012, air emissions from Florida’s industrial facilities hit their lowest point since the Department began tracking them in 1985. Florida’s regional haze plan will assist the state on its path of continued emissions reductions.

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