"The future of our country’s national parks from Acadia to Yosemite are dependent on EPA action now.” - Stephanie Kodish, NPCA's Clean Air and Climate Senior Director and Counsel
Washington, DC - Today, a coalition of environmental organizations filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because it has failed to enforce the Regional Haze Rule as required by the Clean Air Act. Thirty-four states have yet to submit plans to reduce air pollution in our country’s most iconic national parks and wilderness areas, and return natural visibility to these wild places. The EPA amended the Regional Haze Rule in 2017, giving states until July 31, 2021 to complete their plans, which means states and owners of major polluting facilities have had ample time to prepare for compliance.
The organizations’ lawsuit urges the EPA to fulfill its obligation under the Clean Air Act, lock in retirement dates for coal plants, and require big polluters to reduce emissions to clear up haze and improve public health. Haze impacts 90 percent of our country’s national parks, and the same pollutants responsible for the widespread air pollution also harms public health, particularly in communities targeted by generations of systemic racism. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels and other sources worsens community health, drives up healthcare costs, and makes it harder for kids to learn and play and adults to work.
The same sources of pollution harming our public lands and communities are also fueling the climate crisis, and the consequences are alarming. Climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of wildfires over natural levels across the western U.S., including at Yosemite and other national parks, raised sea level at the Statue of Liberty and other coastal parks, and is melting glaciers at Glacier Bay and Glacier.
The thirty-four states that have yet to submit a Regional Haze state implementation plan (SIP) include: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, DE, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, KY, LA, ME, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NM, ND, OK, OR, PA, RI, SD, UT, VT, VA, WV, WY. Sixteen states and Washington D.C. have submitted SIPs to EPA to-date.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court and can be found here. The Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Defense Fund, National Parks Conservation Association, and Sierra Club filed the lawsuit and are represented by Earthjustice.
Statement from Stephanie Kodish, Senior Director and Counsel for National Parks Conservation Association’s (NPCA) Clean Air and Climate Programs:
“Every day that EPA does not act to enforce the law, it puts the health of our national parks and communities at further risk. Facilities across the country are spewing pollution into our air, yet more than 30 states failed to provide plans to reduce this haze pollution and restore clean air at our national parks and beyond. Now, it’s up to EPA, the agency charged with protecting human health and the environment, to hold these states accountable to the law and ensure our national parks, rangers, visitors, wildlife and surrounding communities have clear skies and clean air to breathe. The future of our country’s national parks from Acadia to Yosemite are dependent on EPA action now.”
Statement from Holly Bender, Senior Director for Energy Campaigns at Sierra Club:
“Coal burning power plants are the primary culprit for soot and smog pollution leading to hazy skies, and the thirty-four states that failed to submit pollution reduction plans at issue in this lawsuit are home to some of the biggest, most dangerous polluters in the country. From Pacificorps’ Hunter and Huntington plants in Utah, to TVA’s Shawnee plant in Kentucky, these coal plants and other fossil fuel facilities not only affect national parks and wilderness areas, they also harm the air we breathe in communities of color, which are disproportionately burdened by pollution. Administrator Regan must act to ensure the failure by these states to regulate pollution is not a windfall to utilities at the expense of public health and the necessary achievement of clean air on our public lands. Justice for communities impacted by soot and smog starts with the EPA enforcing the law.”
Statement from Graham McCahan, Senior Attorney for Environmental Defense Fund:
“It’s critical that we reduce the pollution that causes haze so that we can protect the health of all Americans and the beauty of our national parks. There’s no time to waste.”
Statement from Nicole Horseherder, Executive Director of Tó Nizhóní Ání:
“Our future is built through care for one another and the planet that sustains us. The Navajo Nation needs the EPA’s Regional Haze Program to work as intended in order to limit air pollution traveling onto Navajo land. All living things are connected to one another and everyone has a right to a healthy and safe community.”
Statement from Elizabeth Loos, Executive Director of the Badlands Conservation Alliance:
“North Dakota has some of the most egregious haze polluters in the nation, harming air quality in Theodore Roosevelt National Park and other treasured places in the Badlands. Sadly, we’ve noticed a pattern with the state regularly downplaying concerns, delaying action, and failing to require pollution controls to deliver us clean air. Routinely missing deadlines allows the dirtiest coal plants in North Dakota to continue polluting unchecked and EPA must hold them accountable.”
About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.6 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.
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