Sunday, January 11, 2009

EPA Calls for Overdue States to Cut Air Pollution in National Parks

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As a result of legal action by three environmental groups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today determined that more than three dozen states have failed to submit programs required by the Clean Air Act to cut air pollution drifting into national parks and wilderness areas. The determination means that EPA must work with the states to take corrective action or put in place a federal clean air plan.

"Today's action gets the country back on track in restoring clean air to our national parks," said Kevin Lynch, attorney for Environmental Defense Fund based in Colorado. "We look forward to working with EPA's new leadership and the states to clean up the industrial smokestacks that pollute our national parks."

"EPA's action is good news for anyone who enjoys visiting our nation's magnificent national parks," said Earthjustice attorney Jennifer Chavez. "We look forward to working with EPA and the states to achieve clean air and clear vistas in the parks."

The Clean Air Act required states nationwide to submit plans by December 2007 to clean up the air pollution -- and to remedy existing and prevent future visibility impairment -- in 156 premier national parks and wilderness areas (http://home.nps.gov/applications/parksearch/geosearch.cfm). They include: Acadia (Maine), Grand Canyon (Arizona), Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee and North Carolina), Mount Rainier (Washington state), Rocky Mountain (Colorado), Shenandoah (Virginia), Theodore Roosevelt (New York), Yellowstone (Idaho/Montana/Wyoming), Yosemite (California), and Zion (Utah).

If states fail to meet these obligations, EPA must identify the deficiencies and work with the states to take corrective action or put in place a federal clean air plan. After states missed this legal deadline and EPA failed to take the corrective action required by the Clean Air Act, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, and the National Parks Conservation Association recently went to court to compel EPA to take corrective action.

37 states have not submitted the clean air plans for national parks and wilderness areas required by the December 2007 legal deadline, although five of those -- Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, and Wyoming -- have submitted a portion of the required cleanup plans. About 13 states submitted clean air blueprints. The latter group includes: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. EPA must review these plans for adequacy.

Much of the pollution problem in national parks comes from old power plants and factories with inadequate pollution controls. Emissions from these plants can travel hundreds of miles, contributing to regional haze that obscures scenic vistas over large areas. Each state's clean air plan must include rules to limit these emissions, limits that will achieve cleaner, healthier air for our people and our parks.

According to the National Park Service, human-caused air pollution reduces visibility in most national parks throughout the country. Average visual range -- the farthest a person can see on a given day -- in most of the western United States is about one-half to two-thirds of what it would be without man-made air pollution (about 60 to 100 miles). In most of the east, the average visual range is about one-fifth of what it would be under natural conditions (less than 30 miles).

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