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Air Quality: Meeting the Challenges of New Constraints on Natural Resources Development

Michael R. Barr, Proceedings of 44th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1998)

Senator Robert Byrd from the ancient coal mining districts of West Virginia described real challenges when he opened the 1990 Clean Air Act debates:

As we move forward on new clean air legislation, I do not believe we can afford to ignore the effects this legislation will have on the health and [2-3] welfare of the peoplethe real peopleof the high-sulfur coal regions of Appalachia and the midwest....When a coal mine is closed, not only do miners and their families suffer, but whole communities are also put at risk. We are talking about the butcher, the baker, and the candlestickmaker....1

Hard rock miners, oil drillers, and many other natural resource developers have also suffered since the first major Clean Air Act2 amendments in 1970, but they have met many of the challenges so far. In the next decade, they may have to meet much larger, new challenges resulting from EPA's new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone and fine particulate matter (PM) and the new regional haze program discussed in this paper.

In the 1970 Clean Air Act Amendments, Congress set up the basic scheme of federal, health-based air quality standards followed by state plans to attain them. Congress also included special controls affecting coal so that major utilities could not avoid emission controls by switching to low-sulfur Western coal. Congress' 1977 Preve