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Clean Air Standards to be Strengthened Above National Parks

On November 13, 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a court settlement requiring it to strengthen clean air standards to protect ecosystems in some of the nation's most prized national parks. The settlement between the EPA and Environmental Defense, which Earthjustice represented, ended the EPA's 13-year delay in improving the standards, dating back to a 1990 case that the agency also lost.

Under the new settlement, the EPA must propose a rule to address nitrous oxide pollution in parks and wilderness areas by September 30, 2004, and issue a final rule by September 30, 2005. The strengthening of the EPA's clean air standards will reduce the detrimental effects of nitrous oxides on park ecosystems, such as smog pollution, the acidification of lakes and streams, and impaired visibility.

A public comment period has been concluded with no objections to the settlement submitted, so the settlement between the parties is final. The parties have filed a joint motion with the Court of Appeals to enforce the terms of the agreement. Parks from Acadia to Kings Canyon should benefit soon.