Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the state of Arizona’s appeal challenging a court-ordered deadline for plans to reduce haze pollution in the state. The 1977 Clean Air Act set a national goal of cleaning up dirty air in national parks and wilderness areas throughout the nation and requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to put haze cleanup plans in place when states fail to do so. In 2011, Earthjustice sued on behalf of conservation groups to compel the EPA to adopt haze plans covering states that had failed to adopt adequate haze clean-up plans of their own by the legal deadline of 2007. The case was resolved by a settlement with the EPA, setting court-ordered deadlines for adoption of adequate plans. Arizona appealed the lower court’s approval of this settlement, seeking yet more delay, and Earthjustice defended the court-imposed deadline.
“We’re pleased the court has upheld the deadlines for action to clean up haze pollution in Arizona’s national parks like the Grand Canyon and Saguaro National Park,” said Tim Ballo, Earthjustice attorney. “All too often, the skies over these parks are marred by air pollution from power plants and other sources. People should be able to breathe clean air and enjoy the beautiful vistas when they visit these majestic places. This decision will help to make that happen.”
Prompted by the court settlement in this case, most other states have now adopted plans to address regional haze, but Arizona has continued to submit plans that the EPA has found do not meet the Clean Air Act’s requirements, while at the same time arguing that the EPA cannot step in to adopt a plan for the state. Meanwhile, regional haze due to pollution from power plants, factories, and other sources continues to foul the skies in national parks and wilderness areas in the state.
“This is a sensible decision and it’s time to turn our attention to cleaning the haze that clouds our pristine views in Arizona,” said Pamela Campos, attorney with Environmental Defense Fund.
“For far too long the skies above the national parks in Arizona have suffered from hazy views and unhealthy pollutants,” said NPCA Arizona Program Manager Kevin Dahl. “But this decision will help keep the clean-up of air pollution in the state on the right track and lead to clearer vistas and healthier lungs.”
The lawsuit that lead to yesterday’s decision was brought by Earthjustice on behalf of National Parks Conservation Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, Our Children’s Earth Foundation, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Plains Justice, Powder River Basin Resource Council, and Montana Environmental Information Center.