WASHINGTON (CN) – Environmental groups made good on their promise to sue the federal government for failing to act to reduce haze in dozens of National Parks and wilderness areas.
The National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club and seven other groups in January filed a notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency, after it missed its deadline to act on state implementation plans to control haze in natural areas.
The groups say the EPA has been stalling since 1979 on plans required by the Clean Air Act to manage soot and smog, or haze, in National Parks and wilderness areas.
Affected areas, including the Grand Canyon, Smoky Mountains and Yellowstone, have seen increasing haze in past decades.
According to the EPA’s own figures, in National Parks in the East, average visibility has decreased from 90 miles to as little as 15 miles; visual range in Western parks has decreased from 140 miles to 35 to 90 miles.
Haze can also settle in the lungs, contributing to heart disease, lung cancer and asthma. Such pollution is linked to tens of thousands of deaths nationwide each year.
Although the EPA issued a notice in January 2009 requiring states to develop haze management plans for natural areas within 2 years, 11 states are waiting for federal approval on their completed plans, three states have only partial plans, and 31 states and territories lack haze plans altogether, the complaint states.
Controlling haze involves controlling emissions from fossil-fuel power plants and other sources – which industry largely opposes.
The groups, represented by Earthjustice in Washington, want the EPA ordered to perform its nondiscretionary duty to act.