Press Release Sep 18, 2018

Fighting for Clean Air: Groups Sue EPA Over San Joaquin Valley Pollution

NPCA and others are suing the EPA over its failure to enforce deadlines covering state air quality plans in the San Joaquin Valley and nearby Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

FRESNO, Calif. – National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Medical Advocates for Healthy Air (MAHA), Committee for a Better Arvin (CBA), and Committee for a Better Shafter (CBS) filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today over its failure to enforce deadlines covering state air quality plans in the San Joaquin Valley and nearby Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks.

The lawsuit seeks to compel EPA to enforce federal requirements for submitting fine particulate matter air pollution plans. Several of these plans from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) were due nearly 2 years ago. By failing to finalize plans to meet these multiple health standards, some of which were set more than 20 years ago, air quality and visibility at these iconic national parks in the Valley have and will continue to be harmed.

Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are three of the most polluted parks across the country, in part, because of dismal air quality originating in the San Joaquin Valley. For years, residents in the San Joaquin Valley and visitors to these parks have experienced decreased visibility and adverse health effects due to particulate pollution.

Combined, Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks welcomed more than five million visitors in 2017. Visitors spent a total of more than $600 million in communities surrounding the national parks, supporting thousands of local jobs.

Statement by Mark Rose, Sierra Nevada Field Representative for National Parks Conservation Association

“Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks are three of the best examples of American conservationism, but that legacy is being shrouded by dirty air. Poor air quality in these national parks exceeds that of major metropolitan cities. It is long past time for the EPA to enforce decades-old rules to help clear the air.

“The San Joaquin Valley is the only air basin in the nation still listed as being in serious nonattainment with health standards originally set in 1997. A main culprit is extensive fine particulate pollution that severely reduces views and directly harms the health of visitors and Sierra ecosystems. Sweeping vistas in the iconic Yosemite Valley are regularly choked off by haze. This is not the experience park visitors should expect, and it is unacceptable for these conditions to continue.

“This did not happen overnight. Decades of delay in meeting clean air laws by the Valley Air District and California Air Resources Board is putting our parks and communities at risk. Now is the time for those in power to be held accountable for failing to take action.”

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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 more than 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.