New Report Shows How EPA Proposal Will Sacrifice National Park Air Quality by Exempting Hundreds of Antiquated Coal Plants from Air Pollution Cleanup Law

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   February 16, 2012
Contact:   Stephanie Kodish, Clean Air Counsel, National Parks Conservation Association, 865-329-2424, 865-964-1774, skodish@npca.org
Jeff Billington, Senior Media Relations Manager, National Parks Conservation Association, (O) 202-419-3717, (C) 202-384-8894, jbillington@npca.org


New Report Shows How EPA Proposal Will Sacrifice National Park Air Quality by Exempting Hundreds of Antiquated Coal Plants from Air Pollution Cleanup Law

New interactive online story shares the concerns of Americans from across the country about air pollution in our national parks

Washington, DC — The long-term health of national parks and wilderness areas across the eastern U.S. states is threatened by a proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) that would exempt hundreds of highly polluting antiquated coal-fired power plants from longstanding air pollution clean-up requirements. But this does not have to be, urges a group of clean air advocates from across the nation and a recent report.

On December 23rd EPA quietly gave an early Christmas present to operators of some of the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the eastern U.S. That’s when the EPA issued a proposal that would exempt these plants from installing modern pollution controls deemed necessary to protect the air quality in some of America’s most beloved national parks and wilderness areas.

Thirty five years ago – in the Clean Air Act – Congress mandated that these outdated coal plants install the “Best Available Retrofit Technology” (BART) to protect national parks from polluted haze. EPA ignored this mandate for decades, until finally forced by public pressure and litigation to enforce the law.

“In 1977, a bipartisan Congress recognized the importance of clean air in our nation’s most treasured public lands like the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah national parks” said NPCA Clean Air Counsel Stephanie Kodish. “By mandating the cleanup of outdated coal plants and other industries near these areas, Congress sought to guarantee access to fresh, clear, clean air for future generations of Americans.”

Now, on the eve of these dirty coal plants finally being forced to clean up their act, EPA wants to give many of them a reprieve from BART, requirements, proposing that a regional pollution trading program, that in some cases will mean little or no actual cleanup, should be allowed to replace concrete, plant specific pollution reductions .

“The proposed BART rule exemption would allow nearly 150 coal plant units to avoid installing the most effective pollution controls, controls that are necessary for achieving emission rates routinely required at coal plants nationwide,” said Abbie Dillen with Earthjustice. “EPA must drop its proposal to guarantee that these plants are fully cleaned up for the benefit of our parks, our health, and the economic vitality of gateway communities that depend on tourism and recreation.”

Cleaning up the Haze: Protecting People and America’s Treasured Places highlights twelve antiquated coal plants that are currently polluting national parks and wilderness areas but that will escape adequate cleanup under EPA’s proposed regulatory exemption. The report highlights a total of 141 antiquated coal-fired power plants that should be required to install Best Available Retrofit Technology, but that because of EPA’s proposed exemption, would be allowed to continue emitting high rates of sulfur dioxide and/or nitrogen oxides, two of the air pollutants most damaging to human health and the environment.

“Every summer there dozens of days when it’s unhealthy to hike, bike and exercise in parks because of air pollution,” said Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign director Mary Anne Hitt. “By requiring the best available pollution controls, the EPA can help ensure that millions of Americans stay healthy while enjoying the outdoors. Stronger protections are also essential for local economies. In places like the Smoky Mountains, where I grew up, the tourism economy relies on clean air.”

Cleaning up the Haze: Protecting People and America’s Treasured Places was produced by NPCA with support from the Appalachian Mountain Club, Clean Air Task Force, Earthjustice, Midwest Environmental Defense Center, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Sierra Club, and the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Clean Air Advocates Speak Out

In addition to the new report, NPCA is releasing a new interactive online story, Clean Air Protections Mean Healthy Parks, Healthy People and Strong Economies, which shares the personal stories of individuals from around the country who want to see national parks and wilderness areas protected from dirty haze pollution. With backgrounds as diverse as a rancher, a college student, a former teacher and small business owners, these everyday people recognize that clean air at national parks will improve the health of the parks and their wildlife, the people who live near and visit the parks, as well as local economies that depend on clean, clear air to attract businesses and tourists..


The Cleaning up the Haze: Protecting People and America’s Treasured Places report is available at: http://www.npca.org/news/reports/cleaning-up-the-haze.html
 
The interactive online story featuring clean air advocates from across the nation, Clean Air Protections Mean Healthy Parks, Healthy People and Strong Economies, can be viewed at: http://www.npca.org/protecting-our-parks/air-land-water/clean-air/clean-air-geostory.html
 

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