Deadline for states to begin air pollution reductions approaches, but few are ready
The National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and 15 other conservation groups have asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure national parks and the public’s health are protected from air pollution by requiring that states take significant steps to fulfill the Clean Air Act.
“Millions of visitors to national parks and wilderness areas each year see views obscured by haze, and breathe air tainted by preventable pollution – even icons like the Grand Canyon are affected,” said Stephanie Kodish, clean air counsel for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). “To improve these conditions, EPA must require significant reductions in haze-causing pollution.”
EPA faces a deadline of January 15, 2011 to finalize plans to reduce air pollution that will help restore natural views in the country’s most pristine public lands. However, NPCA has determined that most states and EPA are not on track to meet this deadline.
The conservation groups have asked the agency to ensure that states require large pollution sources to reduce their air pollution to fully restore visibility to 156 national parks and wilderness areas that Congress in 1977 designated as outstanding national treasures deserving pristine air quality. To meet the national goal of restoring visibility to these national treasures, states must now take steps to eliminate man-made haze. However, some states have submitted haze-reduction plans that would miss the goal by more than 100 years: Texas has submitted a plan that would not eliminate man-made haze over Big Bend National Park until 2177, and the state of Washington’s would not fully protect Olympic National Park for 323 years.
“Our region’s two biggest coal-fired power plants, the Four Corners Power Plant and the Navajo Generating Station, contribute the most haze over the greatest number of parks and wilderness areas of any other pollution source in the country,” said Mike Eisenfeld, New Mexico energy coordinator for San Juan Citizens Alliance. “Regional haze from industrial sources continues to increase in the Four Corners region, where it also harms the public’s health.”
The Clean Air Act requires states to submit State Implementation Plans (SIPs) that show how they will reduce regional haze-causing pollutants. In January 2009, EPA found that 37 states had not met the deadline to do so; it set the new deadline of January 2011 for the states to submit their plans. The agency will establish a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) for states or areas that do not have an approved SIP.
NPCA and its allies are asking EPA to make clear that states must ensure that state and federal plans result in the cleanest air achievable.
“EPA has the tremendously important task of ensuring that plans are in place to restore natural visibility to our most spectacular wild places,” said Holly Bressett, project attorney for Sierra Club. “It has an unparalleled opportunity to reduce haze-causing emissions from some of the nation’s oldest and most-polluting facilities, which impact areas ranging from Washington’s verdant Olympic Peninsula to the red rocks in southern Utah’s Arches National Park.”
The following organizations signed onto the letter, which was delivered today: Plains Justice, Western Resource Advocates, Sierra Club, Citizens for Dixie’s Future, Dakota Resource Council, GreenLaw, the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, the Powder River Basin Resource Council, Our Children’s Earth Foundation, the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, National Parks Conservation Association, San Juan Citizens Alliance, the Southern Environmental Law Center, Voyageurs National Park Association, WildEarth Guardians, the Wasatch Clean Air Coalition, and the Wyoming Outdoor Council.
About 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 more than one million members and 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.
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