Yosemite National Park is supposed to provide its millions of visitors clean air to breathe and spectacular views that extend for miles. The air in this park is even protected by law.
Yet, as you look at Yosemite landmarks like El Capitan and Half Dome, there’s a good chance today that you’ll be greeted with unhealthy air and hazy skies. That’s because Yosemite and indeed every national park suffers from air pollution. Coal–fired power plants, oil and gas facilities, and other sources of pollution like vehicles degrade national park air quality. This pollution can even cause asthma attacks and other health problems, especially among children and vulnerable populations — something that simply should not happen in our national parks.
Fortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized changes to a key Clean Air Act rule in December 2016 to clarify states’ and polluters’ obligations to restore clean air in our nation’s iconic national parks. These changes are known as the Regional Haze Rule amendments and include:
- Clearer requirements and expectations for states to comply with the rule
- A 3-year extension for states to submit their next round of plans
- Better opportunities for federal agencies such as the National Park Service to give input
These updates to the rule include necessary improvements that were developed through a robust multi-year stakeholder process. It is now up to states, EPA and the public to ensure diligent implementation of the Regional Haze Rule to the meet the Clean Air Act’s promise of restoring naturally clean air to all of our protected national parks. All states must submit their next plans to reduce park harming pollution by 2021.
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