In our last post on this topic we left off asking the question, “given how much wildland fires change year to year, how do we build an emissions inventory (EI) that is representative of a multi-year period, or a future period?” This is a confounding problem not only for the Regional Haze planning process but for any air quality planning exercise that a regulatory agency engages with.
Wildfires are growing in intensity and frequency as the climate changes, draining resources for firefighting often early in the season. Traditional methods of fire towers or satellite imaging are not effective until fires are of substantial size. Air Sciences intern Mikhail Mayers, a computer engineering student at Portland State University, is working with some other students to detect smaller fires sooner. Read more
In our previous post on the Regional Haze Rule (RHR), we briefly explored the history of the rule and how recent changes in the rules and accompanying guidance have implications for how wildland fires are handled during the planning process. Here, we will look more closely at the implications of wildland fire on regional haze planning, and how Air Sciences is assisting the Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP). WRAP is a voluntary partnership of states, tribes, federal land managers, local air agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) whose purpose is to understand current and evolving regional air quality issues in the Western United States.
Then and Now
Promulgated in 1999 in the wake of the bipartisan Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission’s recommendations, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Haze Rule established visual (instead of health-based) criteria for air quality to address declining visibility. The areas subject to this rule span the larger Class I national parks and wilderness areas (156 in total) overseen by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and several Native American Tribes.