EPA Clean Air Plan Must Ensure No Child Left Behind

On April 15th, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that 474 counties nationwide representing over 150 million Americans are out of compliance with the federal health-based smog standard, and initiated a plan to clean up the power plants and industrial sources that cast a haze over 156 national parks and wildernesses. Both actions were required under legal settlement agreements with Environmental Defense and Earthjustice.

"While EPA has taken a landmark step to protect millions more Americans who are at risk from unhealthy smog, it has also fallen short in leaving some children and communities behind," said Environmental Defense senior attorney, Vickie Patton. "EPA needs to put in place tough standards to clean up the harmful pollution from power plant smokestacks and the tailpipes discharging diesel exhaust to give communities across America the tools they need to safeguard children's lungs and lift the veil of haze from our national parks."

EPA strengthened the national health standard for ozone smog in 1997. Enforcement of the standard was delayed until Environmental Defense and other groups took legal action forcing EPA to declare the areas nationwide that are out of compliance with the smog standard. In December, EPA proposed to declare 506 counties with some 160.5 million people out of compliance. But today, EPA significantly lowered the final number of areas protected, delineating about 470 counties in 31 states as unhealthy smog zones. Affected states have three years to submit smog abatement plans.

The EPA also proposed "best available retrofit technology" requirements for power plants and 25 other industrial source categories (industrial boilers, smelters, refiners, cement plants) that contribute to haze air pollution in 156 protected national parks and wilderness areas located in 35 states. In particular, EPA proposed strict clean up guidelines for the haze-forming pollution from coal-fired power plants. Protected areas include: Acadia, Big Bend, Badlands, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon, Great Smokies, Rocky Mountain, Shenandoah, Yellowstone, and Yosemite national parks. The EPA rule will establish requirements for state clean up plans that are due by January 2008.

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