Earthjustice has won another victory in the battle to protect the clean air of ecologically sensitive areas across the country, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, from the noxious emissions of snowmobiles.
Most snowmobiles currently are powered by inefficient and dirty two-stroke engines. As a result, they dump 25-30 percent of their fuel unburned out of their tailpipes and, in fact, produce so much dangerous air pollution that during the busiest winter seasons, rangers in Yellowstone National Park have been forced to wear respirators to protect themselves. Far cleaner engines have been available for decades, but the snowmobile manufacturing industry has refused to use them.
In 1990, Congress tasked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with setting national emission standards that would reduce snowmobile emissions by the greatest amount achievable. After sitting on its hands for more than ten years, however, EPA chose to cozy up to the snowmobile manufacturing industry and set standards that allow almost of a third of all snowmobiles to be built with dirty two-stroke engines well into the foreseeable future.
In response to a lawsuit by Earthjustice (representing Bluewater Network and Environmental Defense) a federal appeals court recently found that EPA had failed to provide any rational explanation for setting such weak standards. This is a key first step to sensible standards that will put a lid on snowmobiles' noxious pollution.