Press Release Oct 7, 2015

Public Interest Groups Tell EPA: Clean Up the Air in National Parks and Wilderness Areas

83 Groups Call for Improvements to Regional Haze Rule in Time for National Park Service’s 2016 Centennial

WASHINGTON – As the National Park Service prepares to celebrate its centennial next year, a large and diverse collection of 83 conservation, health, and public interest organizations called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today to strengthen the rule that protects air quality in national parks.

Led by the non-partisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the organizations asked the EPA to strengthen the rules designed to restore clean air to national parks, wilderness areas and their neighboring communities, arguing that these changes are critical to the long-term health of these protected public places and their visitors.

“Please use your leadership to ensure that this essential clean air rule gives national parks, wildernesses, and their millions of visitors the gift of clean, healthy air in the next decade and for generations to come,” the groups wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

The wide variety of public interest groups that signed the letter include the Sierra Club, NAACP, Moms Clean Air Force, Green Latinos, Appalachian Mountain Club and the Respiratory Health Association among others. The groups wrote that parks had more than 282 million visitors last year alone, including 64 million kids, all of whom went to experience the natural wonders these treasured places have to offer, but that pollution hampers that experience.

“Clean air laws require the most iconic national parks and wildernesses to have the best air quality in the country, yet many of them struggle with dirty air that mars scenic views, hurts peoples’ lungs, and stresses wildlife and ecosystems,” the groups wrote.

The Regional Haze Rule is the program under the Clean Air Act responsible for protecting air quality in national parks and wildernesses. The groups said that the Obama administration has advanced much-needed park protection measures under the rule, leading to more than 500,000 tons a year of reduced sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions from sources in areas west of the Mississippi River alone.

“However, flaws in the rule allow polluters to evade clean up requirements and make uncertain whether and when clean, natural air quality will be achieved,” the groups wrote. “Current projections show that if swifter emission reductions are not required, many national parks and wilderness areas will not achieve the regulatory goal of restoring natural air quality by 2064.”

The groups also noted that while they support the administration’s signature clean air rules, including the Clean Power Plan and stronger ozone standards, “these rules alone will not result in the cleanup of many sources of pollution impacting parks and wilderness areas.”

The administration announced earlier this year that it is looking to make possible revisions to the Regional Haze Rule. The groups are calling on EPA to ensure natural air quality goals can be reached by detailing reasonable progress requirements for states and polluters, and to strengthen accountability and enhance park managers’ role in these steps.

“We implore you to deliver on the nearly 40-year-old legislative promise to return natural air quality to the nation’s most cherished public places by establishing a clear path to clean air now,” the groups wrote.

Click here to view the full letter.


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