A coalition of clean air advocates today announced a settlement setting deadlines for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to limit haze-causing air pollution from aging power plants and factories in Florida. The settlement, lodged late Friday in federal court, requires the EPA to finalize haze cleanup measures for the state in two phases, the first by November 15, 2012, and the second by July 15, 2013. The steps are required by the Clean Air Act to clear polluted skies in the nation’s largest and most scenic national parks, wilderness areas, and wildlife refuges. The settlement must undergo public comment and receive court approval before it becomes final.
“Our national parks were set aside to both protect their natural attributes and to create a safe, healthy place for all Americans to visit and enjoy,” said John Ardonato, NPCA Sun Coast regional director. “But for decades, archaic pollution belching coal-fired power plants have been allowed to muddy the skies and leave dangerous chemicals in the air we breathe. This long-needed deadline puts in a concrete step toward clearing the air in beloved places like Everglades National Park.”
“It’s deplorable that people are forced to breathe and see filthy air when they visit national parks,” said attorney David Baron of Earthjustice, an environmental law firm representing groups in the case. “This settlement takes a big step toward protecting these majestic places from dirty power plants in Florida.”
“The same pollution that causes haze causes childhood asthma attacks, so this is a win for our kids and for our parks,” said Craig Segall, an attorney with the Sierra Club. “It brings ancient, dirty coal-fired power plants like the Lansing Smith plant in Panama City and the Crystal River plant north of Tampa one step closer to finally cleaning up their act.”
The settlement is the result of a suit brought by Earthjustice and Wyoming attorney Reed Zars on behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Our Children’s Earth, Powder River Basin Resource Council, Montana Environmental Information Center, Grand Canyon Trust, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and Plains Justice. The groups filed suit after the EPA missed legal deadlines for action on the haze pollution problem in Florida and 42 other states. A settlement was reached earlier this year for all of the states except Florida.
The Clean Air Act required states to adopt plans to curb haze pollution in all protected national parks, wilderness areas and wildlife refuges by December 2007. Florida missed that deadline, and still does not have a legally adequate plan in place. The law requires the cleanup plans to target haze-causing pollution from the nation’s biggest and oldest park-polluters.