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Watching Our National Parks Fade From View


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View Chrissy Pepino's blog posts
10 September 2013, 4:14 PM
Haze from coal-fired power plants obscures our greatest national treasures
How much of Yosemite Valley will you be able to see on your next visit? (Chrissy Pepino / Earthjustice)

Drops of sunscreen-infused sweat sting your eyes as you climb towards the summit; a small price to pay for the panoramic views that lie ahead.

But after finally conquering every switchback, your view of far-stretching vistas is obscured, not by sweat, but by haze created by coal-fired power plants – a polluting problem that afflicts many of America’s 400 national parks.

Each year these parks attract more than 275 million visitors who, like you, expect awesome visual experiences, whether standing cliff-side at Angels Landing in Zion National Park, conquering the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, or gaping from the valley floor in Yosemite at Half Dome.

Human-caused haze is also stifling more than just a picture-perfect photo. The pollutants that ruin the views in our national parks are the same pollutants that ruin our bodies by contributing to heart attacks, asthma attacks, chronic bronchitis and respiratory illness.

There are 2 million deaths per year caused by toxic pollution, including emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, poured into the atmosphere mostly by coal-fired power plants. So when the Environmental Protection Agency offered emission reduction exemptions for some of the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants, Earthjustice refused to watch from the sidelines – it went to court.

On behalf of conservation partners, the organization recently filed a challenge to EPA’s approval of a program that allows coal-fired power plants in Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico to avoid reducing their emissions of haze-causing pollutants. Escaping federal requirements for stronger air pollution standards has been standard operating procedure for coal plants for decades.

Grand Canyon animation on clear through hazy days. (IMPROVE Project for NPS)

This animation shows a view of the Grand Canyon on days with increasing levels of haze.

By allowing plants to avoid retrofit requirements to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions, the government is making it impossible to restore clear skies, explains Vice President of Climate and Energy Abigail Dillen. Such retrofits also would protect public health and lands.

Visibility in the western United States is only at 50 percent of its natural conditions, and, says Dillen, since we know coal plants are causing the problem, it’s time for the EPA to require clean-ups that should have happened years ago under the Clean Air Act.

“Our lawyers are ready to go to court to make sure that happens without interference from the moneyed coal interests that pollute our national parks,” she advises.

Enjoyable experiences in national parks should encourage admirers to leave with more than a keychain or postcard – assuming that they can actually see what’s there. Cleaning up the air is a significant way to insure that visitors actually have a chance to become awe-inspired witnesses of the wild.

Help protect these magnificant places today by showing support to the Obama Administration for policy changes that will close loopholes - bringing cleaner air to national parks. 

There is no excuse for the EPA exempting ANY power plant from reducing emissions.
How does this help the environment or human beings? There should be NO exemptions..

Edward Abbey was a Prophet...anybody listening/reading his words?

LOVE Edward Abbey- have all his books. Yes, a prophet who was/is ignored and turning in his grave.

Thank you for challenging these rules on behalf of all of us who love nature, in or not in our national parks. Coal-powered energy facilities must be held to the highest clean air standards!

Everything on this planet is being raped by the modern educated class who think the planet is theirs to do anything with. The key lies in teaching all young ones the truth about us being part of the environment and we must help to keep it clean so that future generations will be able to see planet earth as a beautiful place and not as a garbage heap.
I would like to thank earth justice and all other such concerned organizations for leading the fight in such an important issue.
Thanks to all of you fighting for our planet.

Man, that stinks.

You fail to name the biggest cause of pollution-extreme human overbreeding. We are on a planet with 7 billion people that can hold only 3 billion. Everyone needs to have only one child the next generation! Join Negative Population Growth.

That is right out of China's agenda.Why should people cut the number of kids they have.There is more livable land out there than you know. If you feel crowded go elsewhere. The wilderness areas are not crowded at all.How many kids do you have? I bet you are 100% for abortion too. and gay marriage because they cant procreate. Give it a break.

What can we as individuals do to prevent the problems caused by pollution?

I can't decide which is worse: Big Coal or Monsanto. One spews poison we can't ignore, the other seeds poisons in our food we can't see, feel, or taste. What a world. Think how it would be if these maniacs had their way, if there were no "us" to stop them.

We are so lucky to have such beautiful places to go see and visit. It's our responsibility to take care of them and ensure they last for other generations to come.

We cab;t afford to lose these treasures and we should be restoring what we have and adding more before it's all gone. People should be outraged at the government dragging its feet on this coal issue.

We need to regulate sulfur dioxide emissions. We cannot afford to lose any of our great national park views because of pollution. Get rid of coal burning plants. The time has come. Please look at what needs to be done and do it.

The cheap price of coal energy is not worth the cost in human health and pollution of our national parks and vistas. I don't want to have to tell my grandchildren "You think this view is nice now, you should have seen it 20 years ago!"

I was shocked by my first (in my long life) trip to see the Grand Canyon, about 4 years ago. It was supposedly a good air day there, and I thought the air pollution was unacceptable then.

In the Pacific Northwest, exporting coal down the Columbia River on trains, that will then be loaded on barges and exported out of our country, is terribly threatening to the environment even without burning here.

No coal! Alternative, clean energy and yes, lifestyle change, has got to happen, or our grandchildren will live in misery.

Coal fired power plants must now clean up their actions. Children on planet Earth cannot take 34% of US global warming pollution to go on much longer.

Drops of sunscreen-infused sweat sting your eyes as you climb towards the summit; a small price to pay for the panoramic views that lie ahead.

But after finally conquering every switchback, your view of far-stretching vistas is obscured, not by sweat, but by haze created by coal-fired power plants – a polluting problem that afflicts many of America’s 400 national parks.

Each year these parks attract more than 275 million visitors who, like you, expect awesome visual experiences, whether standing cliff-side at Angels Landing in Zion National Park, conquering the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, or gaping from the valley floor in Yosemite at Half Dome.

Human-caused haze is also stifling more than just a picture-perfect photo. The pollutants that ruin the views in our national parks are the same pollutants that ruin our bodies by contributing to heart attacks, asthma attacks, chronic bronchitis and respiratory illness.

There are 2 million deaths per year caused by toxic pollution, including emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, poured into the atmosphere mostly by coal-fired power plants. So when the Environmental Protection Agency offered emission reduction exemptions for some of the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants, Earthjustice refused to watch from the sidelines – it went to court.

On behalf of conservation partners, the organization recently filed a challenge to EPA’s approval of a program that allows coal-fired power plants in Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico to avoid reducing their emissions of haze-causing pollutants. Escaping federal requirements for stronger air pollution standards has been standard operating procedure for coal plants for decades.

It's time to invest in cleaner technology. Shouldn't we leave these parks to our grandchildren in the manner they were left to us by previous generations?

This is a tragic state of affairs! Everyone needs to become more aware of the horror of it all & do what they can to help reverse things. The only way I am able to feel apart of this is to read up on it, spread the word and PRAY!!

Something has to be done about this situation, Or is that the way to eliminate our population of animals attractions, and humans,I have two sons that I want to see these sites and if nothing is done it will never be possible because of ignorant people. Stop it please let our grandchildren and grandchildren be able to see everything that we have had the pleasure of seeing growing up.

Please don't be in collusion with the powerful energy companies in poisoning the American public and ruining our national treasures.
Stand firm to do what is right. Do your job as your agency was created to do: clean up our polluted air to protect our health and environment.

ALL OF THEM WOULD BE ASHAME TO LOSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I absolutely support stricter regulations for power plants!

The west has so much sun and yet it's not really tapped at all for energy use. Also the coal industry makes enough money that retrofitting should not be a financial burden. Good luck.

This past summer we traveled across the country and visited about 9 national parks. We met many visitors from all over the world. Our 7 year old daughter participated in Junior Ranger programs at most of the parks and she played at the campsites with children from other countries with limited English language skills. On my birthday we rode horses through the giant sequoia trees. We made a small snowman by the side of the road at Lassen Volcanic Park. One of my favorite parks is Crater Lake. When we show people pictures of that lake of the bluest blue they ofter gasp. The Grand Canyon view was pretty good the day we were there, but I am hoping to return some day to more fully experience its immensity. There is nothing that can replace these natural resources. The responsibility for maintaining these "wonders of the world" for all of humanity rests on our shoulders.

Dont be selfish assholes.

Its unbelievable that factories are still burning coal. Coal is dirty, toxic & harsh on peoples lungs. Coal smoke leaves mercury sediments in land & water. Our drinking water & National Parks are full of mercury. Mercury is a major cause for many health problems, birth defects and mental disabilities.

Stop stripping the land and steeling from our children.
Stop poisoning the nation.

It is sad that the Environmental Protection Agency's name needs to be changed to the Energy Protection Agency. EPA turn your back on Big Money and do the job that you were put in place to do!

There are many reasons we should replace our use of coal with wind and solar. This in itself is a very significant one.

My wife and I have been to most of the western national parks, several when my children were young and now as adults. We love them all. Their formation has been known as America's best idea. They must be protected!

Mesa Verde National Park

I've seen the haze first hand at the Grand Canyon National Park. It was the first time I went and my thought was-it that smog? It looks like smog. It wasn't real bad- not that there's good smog, but it was sad.
I just didn't think there would be that haze-I've seen it clear too-after the rain.

My favorite National Park (thus far) is Acadia. With its majestic ocean vistas, seen from many vantage points, its wooded, forest interior, I get the best of my two desired worlds. To me, its rocky shore represents the rugged spirit of independence that early settlers must have had to endure their journeys here. It is truly America.

It's a no brainer people! If something isn't done to stop global warming, none of our grandchildren will be around to witness the catastrophic events that will occur because of it. My God, we are seeing some of them now! Are people really that stupid, or uncaring?!!? We are so spoiled that no one seems able to give up anything. Even if it kills us all!

Save the Fire Island National Seashore!

Save the Fire Island National Seashore!

Save the Fire Island National Seashore!

El Yunque in Puerto Rico.

We have the technology. The skies over Newport News, VA, are preserved by U.S. Navy technology that pushes clean air. Didn't Obama just push and require this kind of standard?

Zion is the only one I've actually seen....Gorgeous! Can't imagine it gone...

Save all National Forest

America has fantastic national parks and in many ways is the envy of the world with this regard. Until recently -- America needs to fund the National Parks and ensure that these majestic wonders of the United States are available for the people and for the people to enjoy. Keep them clean, keep them working, and employ plentiful supplies of properly skilled people to take care of them.

Ádh mór (good luck).

We cannot and should lose ANY of our national parks?

What is going on in this country? Wars, poverty, no jobs, and now this government wants to destroy what we hold dear to us...our national parks.

Stop the insanity!!!!!

Before the kids, my husband and I would dream of one day taking a trip across
The country visiting our national parks and tapping into the wonders
And history that is being eradicated before our eyes all for the
The greed and small mindedness of Koch Bros. and oil and gas
Industries. We should be doing what's by industrialized counties are doing
And turning to renewable energy. If the EPA which is purchased by the coal And oil insusties, is no longer protecting our Environment, then we need to abolish it and instal a people's, represented by lovers of our land and natural resources, Envioronmental protection group, then we may have a chance at saving our planet. I fear for all of us inhabitants.
Funny thing is don't these greedy people realize that "you can't take it with you"

I live near the Shenandoah Park in Virginia and have noticed
much more haze in the smear months. 50 years ago when I
first drove the Skyline Drive the views were much better.

Clean up our skies. Coal plants need stringent regulations in curbing sulphur dioxide emissions.

Have you seen Beijing lately? Let's not let any U. S. Park look like that.

Have you seen Beijing lately? Let's not let any U. S. Park look like that.

WE MUST ACT NOW!!!!!

I want my kids kids to be able to see places like these like they're today.

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