Press Release Sep 16, 2011

Ozone Levels in National Parks Continue to Increase, Parks Group Asks Congress Not to Strip Out Protections Against the Dangerous Pollutant

With ozone exceedances already at a three-year high, two pieces of legislation threaten to rollback important protections against unhealthy emissions known to cause premature death, asthma attacks, pulmonary problems and various other respiratory ailments

WASHINGTON, DC – Each year, tens of millions of people visit picturesque national parks like Joshua Tree National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park and Sequoia National Park expecting clean, healthy air, but increasingly they are putting themselves at risk for serious respiratory and pulmonary illnesses caused by ozone pollution in these parks. Today, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has released a pointed report on this growing threat to our national parks that also details how two pieces of pending legislation in Congress threaten to exacerbate the situation even more.

“With unhealthy ozone pollution on the rise in our national parks, this is no time for Congress to weaken and delay efforts by EPA to clean up our air,” said Mark Wenzler, NPCA Vice President for Climate & Air Quality Programs. “National park visitors should not have to worry about having an asthma attack while hiking in American treasures like the Grand Canyon and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks.”

Report findings indicate that so far this year there have been 234 exceedances of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) health-based ozone standard in 18 of the national parks with ozone monitors, resulting in a number of “Code Red” days when even healthy people are advised to protect their lungs by avoiding vigorous outdoor exercise – precisely what many visitors come to the parks to do. That number compares with 223 national park ozone exceedances in all of 2010 and 196 in all of 2009. And there are still two months remaining in the current ozone season. In both 2009 and 2010, national parks had dozens of exceedances of the ozone standard in September and October.

Additionally, as early as next week, Congress is expected to take up two pieces of legislation that will weaken and delay EPA measures aimed at reducing ozone pollution to safer levels. This legislation includes the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011 (H.R. 2401), which would make possible long-term delays to EPA’s cross-state air pollution rule (CSAPR) for utility plants. Even though EPA’s analysis shows that by 2014 CSAPR will annually prevent thousands of premature deaths, heart attacks, emergency room visits, cases of aggravated asthma and acute bronchitis, and other breathing problems. The second piece of legislation is a rider proposed for the U.S. House of Representatives Interior appropriations bill. This rider, proposed by Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND) would prevent the EPA from implementing a federal haze cleanup plan for states that either fail to satisfy the mandates of the Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze Rule or that require EPA’s assistance to comply with the rule. This amendment would likely result in higher ozone pollution and more Code Red days in many national parks.

Click here to see NPCA’s analysis on ozone exceedances in national parks this year and more information of the proposed legislation.


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

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