EPA Holds Public Hearing in San Francisco on Air Pollution Rule

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   March 8, 2006
Contact:   Neal Desai, Program Coordinator, NPCA Pacific Region, 415-989-9921 ext. 20
Mark Wenzler, Clean Air Program Director, NPCA, 202-223-6722, ext. 101


EPA Holds Public Hearing in San Francisco on Air Pollution Rule

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - The nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) delivered testimony today during a public hearing in San Francisco on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule for National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), urging the agency to adopt stronger standards to improve haze pollution in national parks, such as Joshua Tree and Sequoia and Kings Canyon.

“Nearly 30 years after Congress called for a return to natural air quality in America’s national parks in the Clean Air Act, the National Park Service indicates that air pollution currently impairs visibility to some degree in every national park,” testified NPCA Pacific Regional Program Coordinator Neal Desai. "EPA’s proposed standard is significantly weaker than the one recommended by its own expert scientific advisors and staff, and would leave our skies unacceptably hazy."

In its testimony, NPCA also noted the importance of good visibility to park visitors and the economic repercussions from national parks clouded by haze or smog. A Zogby International poll conducted for NPCA in June 2005, finds that more than three in five likely voters (62 percent) would be unlikely to visit a national park clouded by haze or smog. A separate study finds that increases in visibility could raise park visitation by as much as 25 percent with a possible yield of approximately $30 million in increased fee collection and $160 million in additional concession sales.

In December, the EPA released its proposed air quality standards for public comment until April 17, 2006. The EPA rule sets two standards for fine chemical particles emitted into the air by power plants and other industries—a primary standard to protect public health and a secondary standard to improve visibility. During three public hearings held today (Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco) the EPA is accepting comment on the visibility standard. NPCA offered testimony in both Philadelphia and San Francisco today about the need for tougher standards to protect parks.

“EPA's decision on how much fine particle soot to clean up will have implications for decades to come,” said Mark Wenzler, NPCA clean air director. "If EPA follows the advice of its expert science advisors and adopts tougher standards, we can expect to see real improvements in park air quality within the decade. If EPA implements its current proposal, a generation of Americans may miss out on the majestic views that help define our natural legacy."

NPCA’s testimony today also pointed out that visibility-obscuring haze in California’s Joshua Tree National Park decreases views from the popular Keys View to just 17 miles on the haziest days and in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, the air was so bad this summer that yellow “take caution” signs were displayed throughout the park, advising visitors of the health risks from hiking or biking.

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More on America’s polluted parks. NPCA is expected to deliver formal written comments to the EPA before the public comment period closes.

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