Press Release Apr 20, 2020

Parks Groups File Brief Against Administration’s Weak Air and Climate Rule

At a time when the climate crisis facing the planet is undeniable, the administration continues to prioritize polluters’ interests over communities and national parks.

Washington, DC – The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks took legal action today by filing an amicus brief in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The brief supports a challenge to the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which fails to set effective limits to reduce carbon pollution from the nation’s coal-fired power plants, accelerating and intensifying the effects of climate change on public health and our national parks.

“The vast majority of our more than 400 national parks are suffering from the effects of climate change, bringing iconic plants and animals to the brink of extinction, drying up rivers and lakes, melting glaciers, eroding beaches, and crumbling historic structures and artifacts. Instead of acting to mitigate the pollution contributing to these harms, the Affordable Clean Energy Act shows the administration’s willful disregard for the health of our people and public lands,” said Stephanie Kodish, Clean Air Program Director for the National Parks Conservation Association. “At a time when the climate crisis facing the planet is undeniable, the administration continues to prioritize polluters’ interests over communities and national parks.”

National parks are warming twice as fast as the rest of the country. Given their often secluded and less-exposed landscapes—high mountains or arid deserts—national parks are more susceptible, being hit hardest by warming temperatures and severe weather. The administration’s ACE rule, which has been rightly challenged as unlawful, would move our country even further in the wrong direction.

“The effects of climate change are happening now, and our national parks are affected,” said Phil Francis, Chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks. “Cape Hatteras National Seashore is eroding into the sea from rising tides, Rocky Mountain National Park is experiencing record wildfires, and namesake features at Glacier National Park are disappearing from the loss of snow and ice. Great progress has been made over the past 25 years to improve visibility and air quality. It would be a shame to reverse course and lose the investment Americans have made.”

The Clean Power Plan – unveiled by President Obama in 2015 – established the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution for power plants that would save the United States billions of dollars in climate-related costs and health benefits. Despite public outcry and criticism from notable scientists, environmentalists and past EPA regulators, the Trump administration repealed the Clean Power Plan and replaced it with a rule that will weaken efforts to limit greenhouse emissions. Under the administration’s replacement rule, Americans will face more premature deaths, asthma attacks and respiratory diseases, based on EPA’s own analysis.

“If we don’t take immediate action to combat the climate crisis, the results will be even more devastating and irreversible. There is no time to spare when it comes to the future of our people and public lands, which is why NPCA will continue to fight to make sure that EPA abides by its own mission to protect human health and the environment,” said Kodish.

“While among the most protected lands in America, national parks have proven to be among the most vulnerable to climate change. It’s imperative that we make drastic changes now to keep climate change to a minimum and prevent irreparable damage to our air, water, plants and wildlife,” said Francis.

The National Parks Conservation Association and the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks is represented on the amicus brief by the University of New Mexico Natural Resources and Environmental Law Clinic. Students at the University of Colorado Law School’s Getches-Green Natural Resources and Environmental Law Clinic also worked on the brief.

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About The 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 nearly 1.4 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.

About The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks: The Coalition represents over 1,800 current, former, and retired employees and volunteers of the National Park Service, with over 40,000 collective years of stewardship of America’s most precious natural and cultural resources. Recognized as the Voices of Experience, the Coalition educates, speaks, and acts for the preservation and protection of the National Park System, and mission-related programs of the National Park Service. For more information, visit https://protectnps.org.

About the University of New Mexico Natural Resources and Environmental Law Clinic: The UNM NREL Clinic provides a wide variety of legal services to underrepresented individuals, community-based groups, nonprofit organizations, and Indian tribes to protect, preserve, and use lands and natural resources, and improve public health and the environment. The NREL Clinic is staffed by third year law students working under the supervision of a faculty supervisor. For more information, visit http://lawschool.unm.edu/clinic/sections/natural-resources-and-environmental-law-clinic.html.