Landscape photographers have been griping for years, but the haze that plagues many U.S. national parks isn’t going away anytime soon.
Despite the 1977 Clean Air Act, which ordered state and federal officials to restore visibility in these protected areas to “natural”
conditions, average visibility in Eastern parks has dropped from 90 miles to between 15 and 25, while those in the West have seen their visible range drop from 140 miles to between 35 and 90.
To make matters worse, the Environmental Protection Agency, which is in charge of enforcing air quality standards, failed to act last Saturday on a regulatory deadline to approve state plans aimed at curbing pollution from coal-fired power plants and other industrial sources. Until these state plans are approved (and only 34 states have come up with actual plans), or until the EPA designs a plan of its own, companies aren’t required to comply with the haze regulations. Don’t expect action anytime as soon, as President Obama yesterday issued an executive order to put on hold any EPA decisions until after “a reasoned determination that its benefits justify its costs.” A case in point: PNM claims it will cost up to $1 billion to comply with a plan to reduce emissions at the San Juan power plant, which causes 80 percent of visibility degradation in Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park. For now, photographers best stock up on their haze filters.
—Contributing editor Charles Kulander; photos by Charles Kulander