Press Release Dec 4, 2017

Parks Group Sues EPA Over Delay of Ozone Protections

EPA’s action puts public health, national parks at risk.

WASHINGTON, D.C. —National Parks Conservation Association joined nine other conservation and health groups today in a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its refusal to identify parts of the country where ozone pollution threatens the health of the public and America’s national parks.

Ozone threatens the health of park visitors and contributes to the disease and death of park species such as the black cherry tree in the East and aspen and ponderosa pine in the West. National park ecosystems across the country are already showing damage from ground-level ozone pollution.

Ozone pollution, sometimes referred to as smog, is formed when emissions from oil and gas, automobile, coal-fired power plant and other sources are exposed to sunlight. It can worsen asthma, damage the developing lungs of children, and cause premature death from heart and lung disease.

In June, the EPA announced its plan to delay identifying areas of the country that fail to meet the national 2015 ozone standards, effectively allowing polluters to avoid cleaning up their act. Under the Clean Air Act, once an area is identified as being in violation of the ozone standard, states must implement the standard by requiring polluters to reduce their ozone pollution harming each designated area. The 2015 standard would cover more national parks with high ozone pollution, forcing cleanup action needed to protect parks, their visitors and wildlife.

“The EPA’s refusal to enforce clean air standards jeopardizes the health of the public and America’s national parks,” said Stephanie Kodish, director of National Parks Conservation Association’s Clean Air Program. “When visitors come to national parks, they expect to breathe fresh, clean air, but ozone continues to challenge national parks from Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio to Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. Instead of doing its job – taking steps to clean up our air by identifying the areas in danger – EPA is neglecting one of its core duties choosing to stand on the side of polluters. This illegal action is a failure of the EPA’s mission, and we hope to courts will move quickly to force EPA to do its job.”

The National Park Service has identified 109 park units as having ozone conditions that are of “significant concern” to human health while 72 are of “significant concern” for natural resources and species. Rocky Mountain National Park, for example, is listed as having “significant concern” for human health related ozone conditions. Ozone pollution at the park is partially attributed to pollution from the oil and gas industry in the region, and shows no signs of improvement.

If successful, the lawsuit will compel EPA to identify the areas of the country that are in violation of the 2015 ozone standards. Once an area is designated as violating the standard, the Clean Air Act requires states to advance plans to clean up ozone pollution from the sources that are contributing to the areas violation.

Other parties to the lawsuit include the American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, American Thoracic Society, Appalachian Mountain Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and West Harlem Environmental. Earthjustice is representing the coalition in the lawsuit.

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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 1.3 million supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.