In a bid that could produce cleaner air over the national parks, Senators Lamar Alexander and Thomas Carper have introduced two separate but related pieces of legislation that would toughen the nation's air pollution laws and also cap carbon emissions from power plants.
"When the Cherokees named the Great Smoky Mountains, they weren't talking about smog and soot," Sen. Alexander, R-Tennessee, said today while introducing the legislation. "Unfortunately, today they probably would be. There has been recent progress, but air pollution is still a serious health problem, causing illnesses from asthma to premature death and making it harder to attract new jobs.
"Because the wind blows polluted air into Tennessee, our communities cannot have healthy air without strong national standards. It is also time to acknowledge that climate change is real, human activity is a big part of the problem, and it is up to us to act."
Applauding the introduction of the legislation was the National Parks Conservation Association, which long has lobbied for more stringent pollution laws to clear the air of the park system.
"Places like Great Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah, Everglades, and Yosemite national parks were set aside to protect some of the most important ecosystems in the country, yet they have become dumping grounds for unsightly and even toxic air pollutants," says Mark Wenzler, who directs NPCA's clean air program.
"Coal-fired power plants are the leading source of pollutants that cause acid rain, hazy skies, toxic mercury, and unhealthy air in many of our national parks. They are also the leading industrial emitters of the global warming pollution that threatens all national parks, especially the many 'crown jewel' parks of Alaska," he adds.
An NPCA analysis shows that more than 150 of the 390 units of the national park system are located in areas of the country that fail to meet basic healthy air standards. A forthcoming report from the organization will point to many of the threats climate change holds for the park system.
"As responsible stewards of our national parks, Congress must act now to reduce the grave threats posed by air pollution and climate change. These bills will help ensure that our treasured national parks are preserved and protected, unimpaired, for the enjoyment of future generations," says Wenzler.