EPA Proposes Clearer Air for National Parks

Advocates push for significant haze pollution clean-ups for iconic landscapes


David Baron, Managing Attorney of Earthjustice’s Washington D.C. Office, (202) 745-5216

Today, the EPA released a proposal to clarify and update the Regional Haze Rule under the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze program sets a national goal of clear, natural views in national parks and wilderness areas so visitors may take in the magnificent vistas as they breathe in clean air. The Regional Haze Rule, which EPA first adopted in 1999, includes a national goal of eliminating human-caused visibility impairment in national parks, wilderness areas and other “Class I areas” by 2064. The Rule requires states to adopt enforceable plans to limit haze-causing pollution from power plants, factories and other sources.

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

While there have been improvements in air quality and clarity under the existing Regional Haze Rule, haze still poses a serious threat. A recent report from the National Parks Conservation Association reveals 48 National Parks that are supposed to be protected by the rule are currently plagued by significant air pollution.

Earthjustice has gone to court repeatedly over the past 20 years fighting for the clear views promised by the Clean Air Act for all park visitors.

Statement from David Baron, Earthjustice managing attorney who represents individuals and allied organizations in fighting for clear air in our most treasured wild places and national parks:

“EPA says that today’s proposed rulemaking is intended to provide greater clarity to states about how and when they need to act to protect clean air in iconic parks and wilderness areas. We support clearer guidelines provided they strengthen protections against haze pollution and expedite cleanup. Without stronger measures, the air in some of our most iconic national parks will stay polluted for hundreds of years."

“We are pleased to see that EPA is proposing to require earlier involvement of the National Park Service and others in the development of haze control plants. At the same time, we oppose EPA’s proposal to delay the next round of plans to clean up dirty air in our parks and wilderness areas. A stronger Regional Haze Rule requiring measurable and timely pollution reductions will help provide much-needed and long-awaited clear views and cleaner air to everyone who visits our most treasured landscapes.”

Learn more about our work to clean our air and protect our beloved national parks.

Split view of clear and hazy days in Shenandoah National Park.
Split view of clear and hazy days in Shenandoah National Park. (National Park Service)

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