Hualapai proposal to safeguard air quality draws fire from chamber official

The Hualapai Nation and business leaders in Mohave County could find themselves at odds over tribe's desire to protect air quality.

The tribe's Natural Resources Department issued a report in February that called for protecting air quality on tribal land by seeking Class 1 designation under the federal Clean Air Act.

The Hualapai Nation and most of the country currently have a Class II designation, which has less stringent requirements.

The Class 1 status applies to all national parks and federally designated wilderness areas, said Doug McDaniel, tribal team leader for the air division of the regional office of the federal Environmental Protection Agency in San Francisco.

He said Grand Canyon National Park is the closest Class I location to Kingman.

If approved, the designation would set more stringent emission requirements for "major-source" polluters such as power plants and oil refineries, he said.

The tribe has not decided whether it will apply to the EPA for the designation, said Don Bay, acting director of the Natural Resources Department.

He said he plans to present the Class 1 proposal to the tribal council after its election in June and does not expect a decision until late June or in July.

He said the tribe has not sanctioned the report issued by his department.

The report calls for the designation to protect air quality for the 1 million-acre reservation, which has approximately 1,532 members living both on and off the reservation.

"Air pollution is an increasing concern to the health and welfare of residents of the Tribe, can cause physical discomfort and injury to property values, including injury to wildlife and vegetation, discourages recreational and other uses of the Tribe's resources and impairs visibility," the report stated.

"It has been declared to be the policy of the tribe that no further significant degradation of the air on Hualapai tribal lands shall be tolerated …"

However, Tom Carter, chairman of the business and government relations committee of the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce, said the designation could hamper expansion of existing industry and prevent future industrial development within a 100-mile radius of tribal lands.

McDaniel disagreed, saying the radius would be 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, not 100 miles.

Carter, who stepped down last week from his job as economic development director for Kingman 2005 and the Kingman Airport Authority, said the designation could prevent companies at the Kingman Airport and Industrial Park from expanding.

"This has the potential for disaster for anywhere near the radius of the Hualapai Nation," Carter said.

"We don't know what it is going to happen.

It is potentially very significant in terms of its effect" on economic development.

Representatives of major industries in the Kingman area said they were not familiar with the Class 1 proposal.

"We just kind of heard about it second- and third-hand that (the Hualapais) may be seeking a redesignation," said Marty A.

Muenzmaier, director of government relations for Cargill, parent company of North Star Steel.

He said it is too early to tell what kind of effect the designation would have on North Star Steel.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality last week approved a major-source permit for the steel recycler, which had been fined millions of dollars for violating its minor-source permit.

ADEQ spokesman Patrick Gibbons could not be reached for comment regarding the Class 1 designation.

McDaniel said the classification requires companies that modify their plants to obtain permits for the prevention of significant deterioration of air quality.

Modification can include a major expansion such as the addition of a turbine to a natural gas-fired power plant.

Bay said, "It does not stop any power plant or things like that.

It just requires them to put the best available technology (in).

One would think everybody is open to clean air."

McDaniel said, "You have to do a detailed technical analysis of the impact of their emissions.

If there is a Class 1 area within 62 miles, then they have to demonstrate that they are not violating the more stringent protection afforded any Class 1 area."

He disputed Carter's contention that the designation would hamper industrial development in Mohave County.

"People overestimate the effect of a Class 1 area," McDaniel said.

"These sources have to get a permit anyway regardless of whether there is a Class I area or not."