EPA Proposal Would Ease Clean-Air Rules for National Parks
Wednesday, November 19, 2008; Page A06
The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing new air-quality rules that would make it easier to build coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other major polluters near national parks and wilderness areas, even though half of the EPA's 10 regional administrators formally dissented from the decision and four others criticized the move in writing.
Documents obtained by The Washington Post show that the administration's push to weaken Clean Air Act protections for "Class 1 areas" nationwide has sparked fierce resistance from senior agency officials. All but two of the regional administrators objecting to the proposed rule are political appointees.
The proposal would change the practice of measuring pollution levels near national parks, which is currently done over three-hour and 24-hour increments to capture emission spikes during periods of peak energy demand; instead, the levels would be averaged over a year. Under this system, spikes in pollution would no longer violate the law.
In written submissions, EPA regional administrators have argued that this switch would undermine critical air-quality protections for parks such as Virginia's Shenandoah, which is frequently plagued by smog and poor visibility.