Statement of Don Barger On Interior Secretary Gale Norton's Visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   November 12, 2002
Contact:   Don Barger, 865-329-2424, extension 23
Andrea Keller, 202-454-3332


Statement of Don Barger On Interior Secretary Gale Norton's Visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Knoxville, TN - "While Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton is in the Smokies today talking about how the Bush administration is addressing the backlog of park maintenance projects, Great Smoky Mountains National Park — the most visited national park in the country — is choking from air pollution and an $11.5-million annual operating shortfall that is crippling the ability of the National Park Service to protect priceless resources.

It is ironic that the Secretary is visiting our nation’s most polluted national park while the Bush administration in Washington dismantles the very protections designed to prevent that pollution. Federal law requires, and the public expects, that national parks will have the cleanest air in America, but this legal mandate has been ignored. The Bush administration is weakening clean-air laws and abandoning pollution controls such as New Source Review. Cleaning up aging power plants, as New Source Review is designed to do, is essential to restoring clean air in Great Smoky Mountains and in national parks across the country, yet the administration would allow many of these dirty plants to pollute forever, sustaining a deadly threat to park and human health. Even the administration’s Clear Skies initiative does not go far enough to restore the Smokies.

Additionally, while there are important infrastructure needs in our parks, like the project on Newfound Gap Road, addressing today’s maintenance backlog without addressing the operational deficit that created it just leads to tomorrow’s backlog. The administration is not on track to meet the president’s campaign pledge to eliminate the maintenance backlog and “restore and renew” America’s national parks and has not focused sufficient attention and resources on addressing the long-term cause of the backlog — inadequate funding for annual operating needs. NPCA — and congressional supporters in Tennessee and nationwide — will be watching closely as the administration prepares the fiscal year 2004 budget."

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