Critical air quality protection deadlines upheld for Texas and Oklahoma.
WASHINGTON – After nearly a decade of delay in developing a plan to curb Texas air pollution endangering public health and harming the region’s national parks and wilderness areas, a federal district court today told the Trump Administration that it may not delay pollution cleanup any longer.
Just a week before the September 9 deadline for Texas and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to have a plan in place, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia today denied a motion to allow the agency 15 more months to finalize a plan to comply with the Clean Air Act’s standards for reducing dangerous air pollution in the region.
Texas’s power plants degrade air quality in at least 15 national parks, monuments, and wilderness areas across seven states. Coal plants in Texas emit more visibility-impairing, lung-damaging sulfur dioxide pollution than all of the coal plants in Oklahoma and Arkansas combined.
As a result, none of these protected landscapes experience natural air quality, reducing visibility in national parks like Big Bend while putting the public’s health at risk. All told, these facilities are estimated to cause more than 677 deaths and thousands of asthma-related events and hospitalizations each year, with public health costs totaling more than $6.7 billion.
This order by the court struck down an effort by the EPA to extend a near-decade of delays in establishing a plan for Texas to reduce pollution from the state’s coal-fired power plants and other sources responsible for reducing air quality in national parks.
Below is a statement by Stephanie Kodish, director of NPCA’s Clean Air Program:
“Today’s decision is a win for the region’s population, national parks, public health and wildlife that for too long have been put at risk from the capricious and utterly unnecessary delay in reducing Texas’s air pollution.
“Repeatedly, Texas has been told to clean up its act, yet the state refused to do so. For years, EPA was working to develop a federal plan to get the state’s emission under control, and despite the new administration’s effort to abdicate its responsibility to protect the health of citizens and wild spaces in the region, the court said no.
“Reducing the dangerous pollution at issue in the upcoming rule is critical to bring clean air to Texas’s national parks and throughout the region.”
Chrissy Mann, campaign representative with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign added:
“The Court made the right decision today by smacking down Scott Pruitt’s attempt to make the people of Texas and his home state of Oklahoma wait any longer for a plan to clean up dangerous and ugly air pollution. Dirty Texas coal plants have polluted parks and communities across the region for far too long, and it’s past time for those coal plants to be cleaned up.”
Despite the massive amount of visibility-impairing pollution coming from Texas sources, Texas failed to submit a haze plan to EPA by the 2007 deadline set by Congress. In 2009, EPA published a finding that the state had failed to submit a plan in a timely manner and set in motion for the agency itself to develop a plan for Texas that the state must abide by.
In 2011, after EPA missed the second deadline, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, Earthjustice and several other groups sued EPA for failing to perform its duty to finalize a Texas haze plan. NPCA and the other organizations agreed to several extensions to allow EPA and Texas more time to work through technical analysis and other challenges to develop an effective plan. Earthjustice represented the groups in the case.
The latest request by EPA for an extension, however, did not say it cannot meet the September 9 deadline. Rather, the latest request says the agency can meet the current deadline, it would just rather not. The Court was not persuaded.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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