Recommendations to Strengthen EPA’s Approach
UPDATE: On February 28, 2012 NPCA filed comments opposing EPA’s proposal to exempt outdated coal-fired power plants from the requirement to install Best Available Retrofit Technology to protect park air quality.
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The promise of clean, haze free air in America’s national parks and wilderness areas dates back to 1977, when Congress declared that our nation’s greatest natural treasures, known as “Class I areas,” should be free of the unhealthful air that plagues many of our urban areas. Old coal-fired power plants are a major cause of haze pollution, and the Clean Air Act requires that they cleanup by installing “Best Available Retrofit Technology,” (BART)—essentially state-of-the-art pollution controls. After decades of delay, these antiquated coal plants continue to spew dangerous chemicals into our iconic public lands. The EPA is finally in the process of implementing the visibility protection program (or Regional Haze Rule), including BART requirements, to make these plants limit their pollution.
In November 2011 EPA agreed that within one year it would finalize haze pollution cleanup plans for every state. EPA’s historic agreement, if adequately enforced, will provide cleaner and clearer air for generations to come in places like Great Smoky Mountains (NC/TN), Voyageurs (MN) and Acadia (ME) national parks, and Brigantine (NJ), and Caney Creek (AR) wilderness areas as well as their surrounding communities. Unfortunately, EPA recently proposed a rule that threatens to hinder progress toward cleaner air in these and other Class I areas in the eastern U.S.
On December 23, 2011 EPA proposed a BART rule exemption that will allow 28 states in the eastern U.S. to avoid compliance with the BART program. EPA will instead allow these states to rely on emissions reductions they may make under the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) in order to satisfy their obligations under the BART program to protect Class I air quality. While the emission trading program created by CSAPR will result in significant air quality benefits for many eastern states, it will not require some of the most egregious polluters of iconic Class I national landscapes to clean up their pollution to the same level that would be required under BART.
Cleaning up the Haze: Protecting People and America’s Treasured Places asks EPA to drop its proposed BART rule exemption so that our country’s most iconic natural places are fully protected from unsightly and unhealthy air.
 On December 30, 2011 the DC Circuit Court issued a stay of CSAPR in response to an industry lawsuit. Unless and until the CSAPR stay is lifted, emissions reductions expected from this rule are speculative and uncertain. The litigation over CSAPR makes it even more imperative that EPA halt its proposal to exempt eastern states from full compliance with the BART program.