The "Air Pollution Management" Newsletter

June 2008
No. 362

Regional Haze Rule

A rule issued nine years ago relative to regional haze will be impacting the FGD market for many years to come. Here is one example:

Portland General Electric (PGE) proposes to spend about $300 million on pollution controls at its coal-fired power plant near Boardman, OR, which is blamed for visibility impairment in the Columbia River Gorge and around Mount Hood. An analysis submitted to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality indicated the improvements would reduce the plant's haze-causing emissions by about 75 percent. The company would simultaneously install equipment to capture at least 90 percent of the plant's mercury emissions. The changes, which PGE proposes to complete by 2013, should noticeably reduce the plant's contribution to haze around Mount Hood on the most polluted days of the year, according to the analysis. The analysis recommends new low NOx burners with over-fire air and SNCR for NOx control and a semi-dry FGD with pulse jet fabric filters for SO2 and PM control.

EPA issued final regional haze regulations in 1999. The rule calls for states to establish goals and emission reduction strategies for improving visibility in all 156 Class I (large) national parks and wilderness areas. The first state plans are due (depending on several factors such as whether the area is in attainment for PM2.5) between 2004-2008 and plans must require "uniform, reasonable progress" steps for getting to the overall goal by 2064. These goals are very long term.

EPA believes that the program to address visibility impairment must be regional in nature, therefore all fifty states are included under the rule. The rule allows nine western states to implement the recommendations of the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission within the framework of a national regional haze program. The regional haze program can also be tied in with strategies to address the ozone standard, the particulate standard and the regional ozone transport problem. In fact since sulfates are the dominant source of light extinction in the eastern part of the U.S., EPA expects conditions on the worse visibility days to improve by 2010 across that area because of acid rain mandated sulfur dioxide reductions.

EPA is not specifying in the final rule what specific control measures a state must implement in its initial SIP for regional haze. A state must determine baseline visibility conditions, that is, visibility in deciviews for the 20 percent most-impaired days and for the 20 percent least-impaired days for the years 2000 through 2004. “Reasonable progress targets” will be gauged against this baseline, improving visibility on the 20 percent worst days and allowing no degradation of visibility on the 20 percent best days. A state must consider mobile sources, fire, international contributions, construction activities, stationary sources, dust from roads, etc. The long-term strategy must include enforceable emissions limitations, compliance schedules, monitoring data, criteria and procedures for a market trading plan, and other reasonable progress goals established by states which have mandatory Class I Federal areas. Reassessment and revision of the SIPs will occur every 10 years.

EPA stated that data on individual components of PM (nitrates, sulfates, elemental carbon, organic carbon, crustal material) are crucial to understanding the causes of visibility impairment at a given location and are necessary for long-term strategy development.

The regional haze rule impact on the FGD market (absent other drivers) would make a plant seven times more likely than not to install FGD control, if it is the 50 percent of the U.S. that would be considered near national parks.


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