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Minnesota Haze Challenge

Case Overview

Visibility impairment from air pollution at Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota. (EPA)
Above: View on a clear day.
Below: View on a hazy day.

Clean air groups are appealing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to approve a significant portion of Minnesota’s Regional Haze State Implementation Plan—a weak approach that will not result in cleaning up dirty coal-fired plant pollution.

Air pollution is threatening the public’s health and resources of Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) in northern Minnesota and Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior. The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, Minnesota Center of Environmental Advocacy, Fresh Energy, Voyageurs National Park Association and Sierra Club filed the appeal with the Eighth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The pollutants that cause haze in our national parks are the same pollutants that contribute to heart attacks, asthma attacks and emergency room visits for asthma, chronic bronchitis and respiratory illness. Health related costs from hospital admissions, lost work days, and premature death are the hidden price of continued pollution.

In 1977, Congress set a national goal of clean, haze-free air in our country's treasured national parks and wilderness areas. But the EPA and the states have repeatedly dragged their feet and delayed complying with the law. Thirty-five years after Congress set a goal of reducing air pollution in our national parks and wilderness areas, the EPA and Minnesota have only now come out with their first regional haze plan.

Instead of requiring the best available pollution control technology, as the law requires, the proposed Minnesota haze plan relies on a trading scheme that will not adequately reduce pollution. The National Park Service and the Forest Service have demonstrated that the Minnesota haze plan does not require the best available pollution controls and will instead result in more air pollution than if the EPA followed the law.

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