Revised plan fails to require modern pollution controls on Texas coal plants.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Instead of protecting national parks and public health, a new rule will only serve the coal industry, community members and advocates say. After the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) unreasonable request to delay the long overdue deadline for the final Texas Regional Haze plan, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is doubling down and putting the health of Texas and Oklahoma’s families and public lands at risk for the benefit of Texas coal plants.
While claiming to address sulfur dioxide pollution from Texas coal plants, the final rule issued by EPA actually allows more pollution from these plants than they produced in 2016. By failing to finalize and implement the 2016 proposed plan that required actual pollution reductions in Texas, Administrator Pruitt is putting the interests of polluters over public health in Texas, Oklahoma and across the central United States.
Texas coal plants currently emit the highest amounts of sulfur dioxide pollution in the nation and send dangerous streams of pollution throughout Texas and across the border into Oklahoma, which contributes to hazy skies and high rates of hospital admission, missed work, heart disease, breathing difficulties and premature death.
Reducing the haze for Texas would also benefit national parks. If finalized, EPA’s proposed plan would have reduced haze in 19 national parks and wilderness areas across the south central United States as well as suppress pollution coming from Texas that is reducing visibility and air quality at the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, the Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks in Texas, and other areas.
“As a Senior citizen and hiker of the Wichita Mountains for the last 40 years I can attest to the very big difference in the air quality from 40 years ago to present,” said Linda Gibson, Senior citizen and resident of Oklahoma City, OK. “When I first hiked in the region the air was clear and pure and one could see for miles around. It now has a grey haze over the high altitude parts of the range. It is bothersome to both my asthmatic lungs and nasal passages. I no longer hike there due to this very annoying pollution.”
Under a Clean Air Act protection called the Regional Haze Rule, states are required to develop plans to clean up pollution and improve air quality at national parks and wilderness areas. But for more than a decade, Texas has dragged its feet, putting forth weak plans that would do nothing to clean up the air within the state. Because Texas refused to do its job, the EPA – under a court order during the Obama Administration – did what Texas refused to do, putting forth an adequate plan in 2016 to cut the haze pollution in Texas.
The protections in the 2016 haze clean-up plan would have provided much-needed air quality relief across Texas and even would have saved Pruitt’s home state of Oklahoma more than $771 million annually in public-health related costs. The damage that Texas coal plants do to Texas alone is astronomical, costing Texas alone more than $3.8 billion annually in preventable public-health related costs, which includes more than 17,000 asthma attacks, 389 deaths, and more than 70,000 missed workdays every year.
“By Pruitt scrapping the proposal that required actual pollution reductions, he is bending over backwards to help Texas polluters maintain a dangerous status quo. This move is egregiously unlawful; centers profit over people; and harms wildlife and the viewing of federally protected natural areas such as Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and the Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks in Texas,” said Chrissy Mann, Senior campaign representative with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.
“Administrator Pruitt’s EPA stole a future of cleaner air for Texas and the region’s national parks,” said Stephanie Kodish, Senior Director & Counsel of National Parks Conservation Association’s Clean Air Program. “For a decade, Texas has refused to follow the law and reduce coal-plant pollution harming the health of its residents and national parks like Big Bend. Instead of fulfilling its duty to protect public health and the environment, the EPA under Administrator Pruitt has chosen to exempt some of the nation’s worst polluters from needed emission reduction requirements. Today’s decision is contrary to law, fact and reason and NPCA will not rest until we achieve clean air for our national parks and the people that cherish them.”
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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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