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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. 

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

What kind of government do we have that allows it's people and the land to suffer so that a select few can reap the most benefits. As corporations grow stronger, they entice our "elected" officials into performing criminal acts, and one such is compromising our land for the sake of profit. Our parks are precious, a symbol and the heart of our land.

we need to do something now before the view is gone forever

we need to do something now before the view is gone forever

We are allowing, what little is left of the natural beauty of this, once great, continent, to be destroyed by ignorance and greed . Cut-backs in funding, road construction, drilling, air pollution, poisoning, shooting and removal of wild animals etc. etc, etc.

The more we destroy nature, the more we destroy ourselves. The more we live in harmony with nature, the more healthy we become.

The more we destroy nature the more we destroy ourselves. The more we live in harmony with nature

Our National Parks are America's greatest natural gift. Let's keep the air clear so that we can see the true beauty of these parks.

Let us save our mountains and nature. Can you also check this,


how do we beat the rich when we can get rid of there greed then we can save the world and not before that

I found your article about our national parks informative and interesting I was eagerly looking forwarder to voting for my favorite view only to find that Earthjustice has chosen to limit voting to their apparently favorite private enterprise commercial vehicle Twitter.

I resent being told what avenue of private communication I must use to express my views. This happened recently on a television viewer participation show. I watched the whole season and after the last episode the audience was asked to vote for the winner. When I went to the web site to vote I was informed t5hat I could only vote if I joined Facebook. I called the tv show company to complain but w3as told that Facebook was the only sto participate. NEEDLESS to say I am not watching the new season of the show.

I was going over my renewal notice from Earthjustice this morning and was going to send a check but if my views can only lb4e expressed over Twitter or Facebook I will not be renewing. This is regrettable because I truly care about your issues but if email is no longer an option to participate I guess I will no longer be a member.

Thanks for you consideration.

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