Advocates from Across the U.S. Appeal to Obama Administration to Protect Their Parks, Businesses, and Families from Dirty Air
WASHINGTON, DC – By law national parks are supposed to have the cleanest air in the country. But flawed policies and the slow pace of enforcement means that many parks, from the Grand Canyon to Joshua Tree, won’t be restored to natural air quality for centuries. Upset by the impact of dirty air on their parks, their lungs, and their businesses, a diverse group of citizens from across the U.S. is meeting with top officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of the Interior (DOI) today. They are calling on the administration to fix and enforce the regulations that are supposed to restore clean, clear air to national parks for the benefit of all people.
“On a poor air quality day you can only see what looks like brown haze and not exactly what one would have in mind for an attractive, sky-scape view of the Sequoia National Park,” said Destiny Rodriguez of Fresno, Calif., who works at the Central California Asthma Collaborative. “These places are meant to provide an escape of the everyday. When visiting a national park you want to be able to see it, and not the air pollution and devastation caused to wildlife.”
The diverse group does not include a single paid lobbyist, but is instead made up of parents, business owners, former government officials, a preacher, a conservationist, an artist, a public health advocate, and a Navajo botanist, who are speaking out for clean park air and against the continuation of preventable air pollution.
“I have never forgotten the fall afternoon I first saw the Great Smoky Mountains on the distant horizon,” said author and Methodist Minister Charles Maynard from Maryville, Tenn. “The Smokies have been a part of my life ever since. The name Smoky does not come from smog or pollution but from the beautiful wisps of cloud that rise up from ridge and chine after a summer rain, early in the morning just after sunrise, as spring arrives to melt the winter’s snow. There are days that the mountains disappear from the near horizon due to poor air quality. I miss them and search for them consciously and unconsciously.”
Outdated and heavily polluting coal-fired power plants and other industries have polluted national park air for decades, while at the same time contributing to health problems like asthma and heart disease. Their pollution drives away tourists and in turn strains local businesses.
“On a clear day in Joshua Tree National Park, I encounter scores of visitors enjoying the unique landscape, taking a ton of pictures and extolling the profound beauty of the place,” said Melissa Spurr, an artist and photographer from Joshua Tree, Calif. “But when the air is visibly dirty, I see fewer visitors, and those that I do meet often ask me questions like, ‘Is it always this smoggy here?’ This disenchantment among park visitors deeply concerns me. Our local economy depends upon a constant influx of tourist dollars, and our arts community especially owes its vibrancy to a steady stream of new and repeat park visitors. If the park continues to attract visitors, our creative industry will continue to thrive and grow.”
Congress mandated that specially protected parks and wilderness areas – the “crown jewels” of America – be restored to clean, clear air. Specifically targeted by the law are antiquated highly polluting coal-fired power plants and other industries fouling park air. Efficient and affordable technologies, source retirement or transition to clean energy can substantially reduce pollution in the parks, but opposition from industry and inattentiveness by regulators has allowed many such polluters to escape cleanup or incentivize alternative energy plans. These advocates are calling on the administration to end the legacy of polluted haze in our national parks by fixing and enforcing clean air laws.
To learn more about how air pollution impacts national parks or to see NPCA’s petition to EPA to improve park air, go to www.npca.org/cleanair4parks.
Below is a list of the individuals taking part in the meetings with EPA and DOI officials. If you would like to interview anyone on the list concerning these meetings, please contact Christa Cherava at 970-623-6882 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
•Erik Fernandez – Portland, Oregon – is a wilderness coordinator for Oregon Wild.
•Donna House – Teelch’int’í, Navajo Nation – is a botanical consultant and assists Indigenous/Native American community-based organizations in protecting eco-cultural diversity from adverse development.
•Jim Hazzard – Stafford, Virginia – is a retired federal government employee.
•Destiny Rodriguez – Fresno, Calif. – is the Director of Outreach and Communications for the Central California Asthma Collaborative.
•Dean Bibles – San Antonio, Texas – is a retired former Director of Policy and Land Tenure for the Department of Interior.
•Peter Spurr – Joshua Tree, Calif. – is a real estate broker.
•Melissa Spurr – Joshua Tree, Calif. – is an artist and a photographer.
•Kurt Lysne – Minneapolis and International Falls, Minnesota – is a geophysicist.
•Carol Jean Larsen – Bismarck, North Dakota – is a retired high school English teacher.
•Charles Maynard – Maryville, Tenn. – is an author and United Methodist minister.
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