On April 15th, Environmental Defense agreed to modify a court-ordered consent decree by giving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency until June 15, 2005 to issue final rules cutting haze air pollution in national parks. The rules were due today under a lawsuit Environmental Defense filed against the agency in 2003. The rules are required to cut haze air pollution in 156 protected national parks and wilderness areas, such as national treasures like Acadia, the Grand Canyon, Great Smokies, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, Shenandoah, Yellowstone, and Yosemite national parks.
"Our national parks are a precious American legacy, and current pollution levels are threatening the health of park visitors, harming ecosystems and cloaking vistas in haze," said Environmental Defense senior attorney Vickie Patton. "The nation needs a strong EPA program that protects national parks from harmful air pollution. We're urging the EPA to take this extra time to develop clean air standards that in fact protect our national parks from harmful air pollution."
The EPA guidelines now due on June 15 will help project 156 national parks by applying pollution controls on nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide pollution from 26 categories of industrial sources constructed between 1962 and 1977. The industrial sources include power plants, industrial boilers, smelters, refineries, chemical facilities, cement plants, and pulp and paper mills. States nationwide will use the guidelines to develop plans, due to EPA by December 2007, that demonstrate progress toward restoring natural visibility conditions.
According to data released by the National Park Service in February, national parks across the interior western United States – from Glacier in the north to Grand Canyon in the south – are suffering from worsening air pollution conditions or have shown no improvement over the past decade. In this region of the country, home to some of the nation's premier national parks, worsening pollution levels have been recorded from 1994-2003 for the following indicators: the haziest days, ozone "smog" levels, nitrate concentrations and ammonium concentrations. See the National Park Service website at http://www2.nature.nps.gov/air/who/npsPerfMeasures.htm, click on "detailed results" and scroll down to Figures 2, 4, 6 and 7.
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