The issue, as far as the federal government is concerned, concerns haze. They’re talking about the amount of haze in our air, and how that haze restricts visibility in our National Parks–specifically, Haleakala National Park.
This Thursday, May 31, officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a public hearing at UH Maui College on how much haze is limiting visibility in Haleakala, why it’s happening and what we can do about it (click here for the EPA website linking to all the relevant analyses and fact sheets dealing with this issue). Here’s an explanation as to why this is taking place from the media release sent out on the hearing:
The Clean Air Act requires states, in coordination with EPA, the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and other interested parties, to develop and implement air quality protection plans to reduce the pollution that causes visibility impairment in 156 national parks and wilderness areas. Agencies have been monitoring visibility in national parks and wilderness areas since 1988. In 1999, the EPA announced a major effort to improve air quality in national parks and wilderness areas through the Clean Air Act Regional Haze Rule.
Now the haze comes from a variety of sources–the biggest being vog, which we can’t do anything about. But the burning of sugar cane by Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar also produces haze, which certainly restricts visibility in Haleakala National Park. While residents shouldn’t expect the EPA to shut down the HC&S mill, they should understand that haze can be mitigated. Or, at the very least, they could start seriously monitoring things like fugitive dust, cane smoke and mill emissions (the findings on such emissions in the EPA’s 81-page Technical Support Document, which is available here) are “inconclusive”).
Those attending the hearing, though, should keep in mind that all the EPA will talk about is how haze impairs visibility–not health effects from cane burning. Just haze and visibility. Got it? Good.
Here are the details on the hearing:
DAY–Thursday, May 31
TIME–Open House: 5:30-6:30pm; Public Hearing 6:30-8:30pm
LOCATION–The University of Hawaii, Maui College; Pilina Multipurpose Room (310 W. Kaahumanu Ave. Kahului)
Photo: Forest & Kim Starr/Wikimedia Commons