Every year it seems we hear stories about air pollution in the parks, about how high levels of ozone in places like Great Smoky Mountains National Park and even Cape Cod National Seashore are bad for your health, and how particulate matter at Sequoia National Park is obscuring your views.
Well, the folks at Earthjustice, a legal arm of the environmental movement, got tired of hearing those same stories year after year and today sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over air pollution afflicting national parks.
In its lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., Earthjustice accuses the EPA of dragging its feet for 15 years after being ordered to protect the air quality of national parks. According to the group, back in 1990 a federal court of appeals ordered the EPA to make sure that it live up to the Clean Air Act's mandate to protect air quality in national parks. But in the end, claims Earthjustice, the EPA simply went back to the same program that was deemed inadequate.
"It's inexcusable for EPA to adopt a 'business as usual' policy, when the National Park Service has documented that smog pollution is worsening at national parks across the intermountain West from Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon," says David Baron, an Earthjustice lawyer. "EPA is flouting the bedrock protections of the Clean Air Act and an overwhelming body of scientific research in failing to protect national parks from smog-forming pollution."
Earthjustice claims that the EPA decided this past October to leave in place existing limits for nitrogen oxide pollution in skies over national parks, wilderness areas and seashores. This is the pollution that contributes greatly to smog and haze over parks and problems found in other ecosystems. For instance, studies have blamed nitrogen oxide for harming ecosystems in 41 percent of the Chesapeake Bay by reducing oxygen levels, according to Earthjustice.