Clear Today, Gone Tomorrow...
In its new report, Dark Horizons (PDF, 3.5 MB), the National Parks Conservation Association identifies the top 10 national parks at risk from pollution from new coal-fired power plants.
Summer is the time many families visit our national parks...and it is also the time when air pollution peaks. Dirty air can darken the horizon and ruin scenic views. It also damages plants, harms fish and other wildlife, and even affects visitors and park staff, causing an asthma attack in a young child for instance, because of excessive levels of ozone pollution.
Already, NPCA has identified that one in three national park sites has air pollution levels that exceed health standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Most of the air pollution affecting national parks results from the burning of fossil fuels, especially by coal-fired power plants. Until now, some remote national parks like Great Basin in Nevada and Teddy Roosevelt in North Dakota have largely been spared dirty air. But as energy development activities increase, these parks too, are now vulnerable. Across the country, more than 100 new coal-fired power plants are in various stages of planning and development... putting national parks at risk.
Yet, the Administration responded to this growing threat to our national parks by seeking to weaken and rewrite the very laws that protect national park air quality. Over the objections of its own scientists, and those at the National Park Service, the EPA proposed regulatory changes that would have made it easier to build new coal-fired power plants near national parks.
Fortunately, in December 2008, the Administration abandoned its plans to weaken the rules that would have allowed coal-fired power plants and other facilities seeking to locate near national parks and wilderness areas to circumvent pollution limits established by Congress to protect these areas. If this rule had been finalized, there could have been more power plants and factories emitting more air pollution into America's national parks.
NPCA's Director of Clean Air and Climate Programs Mark Wenzler said, "This is a victory for our national parks, and the millions of Americans who visit them and live near them. The Administration wisely heeded the concerns raised by EPA scientists, the Park Service, Congress, and tens of thousands of Americans, and will not permit more pollution to damage wildlife, mar scenic views, or endanger visitors to our national parks and wilderness areas."
Now that our clean air laws have been saved, NPCA will continue to diligently enforce them to protect our national parks from dozens of coal plant proposals that remain on the books. We also will work with the Obama Administration and Congress to strengthen the clean air protections for our parks.
View Our Map
NPCA has developed an interactive map illustrating the 10 national parks most at risk from pollution from new coal-fired power plants, with icons depicting the alarmingly close proximity of new and existing coal-fired power plants to those parks. The media is welcome to reprint or link to this map as needed. View the map >>
Senators Introduce Resolution Disapproving of EPA's Attempt to Weaken Park Clean Air Protections--December 10, 2008 (PDF)
Senators Call on EPA Not to Relax Clean Air Rules Around National Parks--Letter delivered June 23, 2008 (PDF)
NPCA Press Release
National Parks Conservation Association Names 10 National Parks Most Threatened by New Coal-Fired Power Plants--May 15, 2008
In the News
Clean-Air Rules Protecting Parks Set to Be Eased--Washington Post 05/16/08
Why national parks, coal-fired power plants may be neighbors--Christian Science Monitor 04/24/08
Editorial: Parks in Peril --New York Times 03/24/08