On a bad day, Grand Canyon vistas can be obscured by Los Angeles smog, illustrating an extremely controversial environmental problem: visibility is getting worse at one-third of the nation's monuments, parks, and wilderness areas.
This week, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finally issuing its first visibility regulations, requiring under the Clean Air Act of 1977. The agency's slowness has earned it considerable ire from environmentalists and a lawsuit brought by Friends of the Earth.
But the rules also are drawing fire from adivers to President-elect Ronald Reagan. They asked the Carter administration to forgo any major policy decisions between the election and Mr. Reagan's inauguration. They accuse EPA administrators of trying to slip in a number of tough new rules in their final days.
Because visibility is a matter of aesthetics rather than human health, and because the new regulations may make it more difficult to locate new power plants, synthetic fuel plants, and other industrial plants in several Western states, the rules have been strongly opposed by a number of business groups.
Groups such as the National Coal Association and the Edison Electric Institute are preparing for what is expected to be a tough battle over renewal of the Clean Air Act next year. Visibility rules will be a major issue.
The current EPA visibility regulations are limited in scope. They apply only to reasonably obvious sources of vision-reducing pollutants near parks and other areas where visibility has been deemed of major importance.