General Counsel for the National Parks Conservation Association
Parks in Peril: Protecting the National Parks from Air Pollution
Before the Environmental Protection Agency
August 21, 2001
My name is Libby Fayad. I serve as General Counsel for the National Parks Conservation Association, the only national nonprofit organization dedicated solely to protecting and expanding America's national park system. Today I am speaking on behalf of our more than 425,000 members who care deeply about the health of our national parks.
Many national parks suffer more from polluted air than the cities and suburbs where we live. But if Americans expect clean air anywhere, it's in our national parks.
Air pollution respects neither state boundaries, nor park designations, nor sensitive economies, nor sensitive people. The benefits of cleaning up old, dirty power plants and industry smokestacks transcend the national parks. Residents and economies hundreds of miles away from the parks also will benefit.
In recognition of the many values of having clean air in the national parks, twenty-five years ago Congress set a goal of clearing the air. Today, however, America's parks are in peril. We are no closer to meeting the goal. In some parks, air quality is worse, not better than it was 25 years ago.
From Yellowstone (America's first national park) to Great Smoky Mountains (America's most visited national park) these areas Americans believe are permanently protected are instead permanently pummeled by air pollution. As a result of this pollution, parks suffer hazy vistas, smoggy skies, and streams too acidic to support fish and wildlife. The oldest, dirtiest, coal-burning power plants and industrial smokestacks contribute to all of these problems in the parks and neighboring communities.
At the same time Congress recognized the value of clean air in the parks, industry lobbyists told Congress that these older smokestacks soon would be retired, and that there was no need to require them to clean up. Twenty-five years and many tons of pollution later, most of those plants are still polluting national parks and neighboring communities.
The biggest sources of hazy skies in the East are coal-burning power plants, but even in some Western parks such as Grand Canyon and Big Bend, power plants are a significant source.
Three years ago, National Parks Conservation Association and Colorado State University polling revealed that seven out of eight Americans (87%) believe that companies should clean up pollution that impacts national parks even if they might pay more for electricity and consumer products as a result. Recent polling in Tennessee, New Hampshire, and Oregon also demonstrates overwhelming public support for restoring clean air and scenic vistas to our national parks. Even in the conservative state of Virginia, a poll conducted in May 2001 showed that eight out of ten Virginians (77%) believed older power plants should meet modern pollution control standards.
Most of the industries involved have acted irresponsibly. After twenty-five years, most have failed to do the right thing and clean up their pollution. The public is tired of paying the bill. EPA has no other choice but to require older, dirty power plants and other industrial facilities to meet today's pollution reduction requirements.
Further delay will continue to hurt the national parks, their visitors, and their neighbors.
Counsel for the National Parks Conservation Association since 1987, Libby Fayad oversees the conservation group's litigation program. Ms. Fayad has a degree of Doctor of Law (J.D.) from the Georgetown University Law Center and a Bachelor's degree in economics from Marymount College. She can be reached at 202-223-6722, extension 235.