On Earth Day 1999, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
announced a ground-breaking program to restore clean air to some of the
country’s most revered national parks including the Grand Canyon, Great
Smoky Mountains, Glacier, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Acadia, Shenandoah,
Mount Rainier, Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands, and Big Bend. The program was
the culmination of more than 20 years of legislative activity, scientific research,
state/EPA consultation, and public debate. In a February 5th written request
to EPA Administrator Whitman, an industry coalition urged the new
administration to derail the clean air program.
“Industry is pressing an administration that is less than 20 days old to derail a
major clean air program that was more than 20 years in the making,” said
Environmental Defense senior attorney Vickie Patton. “EPA’s program to
curb air pollution in the national parks gives states and industry more than 60
years to restore the park’s clean air, but some in industry claim it’s too
aggressive. Most Americans are dismayed that it will take so long to make
clean air progress.”
The EPA program, which is designed to abate haze air pollution in premier
national parks and wilderness areas, was developed over the course of more
than 20 years:
- The program is required under a statutory program originally adopted
in the 1977 Clean Air Act.
- The program incorporates the recommendations of western states and
tribes that have been meeting for nearly a decade to formulate policies
designed to curb the haze in western national parks.
- In 1993, the National Academy of Science’s National Research
Council issued a report on the state of visibility science that is the
foundation for EPA’s regional haze program. Protecting Visibility in
National Parks and Wilderness Areas, National Academy Press
- In 1997, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) found that EPA’s
program reflected an unusual degree of flexibility for the states.
Regional Haze: EPA’s Proposal to Improve Visibility in National
Parks and Wilderness Areas (Library of Congress 97-1010 ENR,
Nov. 17, 1997).
- The program would provide for the clean up of large industrial facilities
“grandfathered” from clean air requirements while allowing states broad
flexibility to rely on market-based mechanisms to achieve the emission
- The program would reduce airborne contaminants that not only pollute
national parks and wilderness areas across the country but also
contribute to deleterious fine particle concentrations in communities
nationwide and acid deposition in sensitive ecosystems.
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