Bipartisan Group of Senators Warn EPA Not to Relax Clean Air Rules Around National Parks

Say Proposed Rule Change Would Increase Pollution and Reduce Visibility Around Many of the Nation's Most Pristine Landscapes

WASHINGTON – A group of eight U.S. Senators today urged Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Stephen Johnson to withdraw a rule that would weaken air regulations near national parks, wilderness areas and other scenic lands.

A letter, signed by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), John Warner (R-Va.) and John Tester (D-Mont.), criticized a rule proposed by the EPA in June 2007 that would “result in a significant undercounting of actual pollution sources, such as coal-fired power plants, permitting them to emit more pollution into national parks and wilderness areas.”

“At a time when we are about to make some progress in reducing air pollution, this rule would take us backwards by weakening clean air rules and making it easier to build new coal-fired power plants near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other parks and wilderness areas,” Alexander said. “If the EPA insists on moving forward with this rule in its present form, I will introduce legislation to overturn it.”

“Unhealthy, dirty air is a significant threat facing our nation today, and we cannot tolerate any weakening of our pollution-control regulations,” said Sen. Carper. “It is especially important that we protect our precious National Parks from pollution that threatens plant and wildlife, and as well as the hundreds of thousands of visitors who are drawn each year to experience and enjoy these uniquely American treasures. I am disappointed that the Environmental Protection Agency would move to weaken pollution restrictions around our great national treasures.”

“We have an obligation to be good stewards of the environment and to safeguard our National Parks and wilderness area.  That is why I am very disappointed that the EPA would propose weakening clean air protections for national parks and other wilderness areas,” said Senator Cardin.  “This rule change shows a lack of appreciation of our park system and the American people, and I will work to ensure it never takes effect.”

“Our parks are national treasures and we must keep them healthy for future generations,” Dole said. “The Administration’s proposed rule would be harmful to North Carolina’s parks and air quality, and I will work with my colleagues to put an end to it.” 

“To relax clean air rules at our national parks is to do a disservice to these majestic places owned by and visited by millions of Americans each year,” Warner said.

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) is supporting this effort.

"We thank these Senators for championing the right of all Americans to have clean, clear and healthy air when visiting our national parks," said Mark Wenzler, clean air and climate director at National Parks Conservation Association.