National parks facing stronger air pollution regs

National parks facing stronger air pollution regs
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing stronger air pollution rules at national parks, but climate activists and conservationists say it may be too little, too late for the great outdoors.

The views at national parks, and the air tourists breathe, are often distorted by air pollution, the EPA said.

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"The regional haze program helps to protect clear views in national parks, such as Grand Canyon National Park, and wilderness areas, such as the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge,” the agency said. "Vistas in these areas are often obscured by regional haze caused by emissions from numerous sources located over a wide geographic area."

The EPA proposed Monday strengthening the regional haze rule for states, which are required to submit plans to improve visibility and progress reports.

Climate activists cheered the proposed requirements for pollution reduction at national parks but said they are disappointed by a three-year delay that would give states more time to comply.

"Some of these changes are a step in the right direction and, if adopted, will result in every state being held accountable for achieving steady reductions in park pollution,” Stephanie Kodish, senior director of the National Parks Conservation Association’s Clean Air Program, said in a statement. "However, other proposed changes would allow known polluters to delay cleaning up their act and set back efforts to clean up the air in national parks by years."

Earthjustice echoed those concerns.

“We oppose EPA’s proposal to delay the next round of plans to clean up dirty air in our parks and wilderness areas,” David Baron, managing attorney at Earthjustice, said in a statement. "A stronger regional haze rule requiring measurable and timely pollution reductions will help provide much-needed and long-awaited clear views and cleaner air to everyone who visits our most treasured landscapes." 

The public has 60 days to comment on the EPA’s proposed rule to crack down on air pollution at national parks.