Clean-Air Rules Protecting Parks Set to Be Eased
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 16, 2008; Page A01
The Bush administration is on the verge of implementing new air quality rules that will make it easier to build power plants near national parks and wilderness areas, according to rank-and-file agency scientists and park managers who oppose the plan.
The new regulations, which are likely to be finalized this summer, rewrite a provision of the Clean Air Act that applies to "Class 1 areas," federal lands that currently have the highest level of protection under the law. Opponents predict the changes will worsen visibility at many of the nation's most prized tourist destinations, including Virginia's Shenandoah, Colorado's Mesa Verde and North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt national parks.
Nearly a year ago, with little fanfare, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed changing the way the government measures air pollution near Class 1 areas on the grounds that the nation needed a more uniform way of regulating emissions near protected areas. The agency closed the comment period in April and has indicated it is not making significant changes to the draft rule, despite objections by EPA staff members.
And here I thought the “P” in EPA stood for protection not pollution.
Here in Tennessee, the National Park Service has already issued dire reports about air pollution affecting the Great Smoky Mountains:
Research and monitoring conducted in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has shown that airborne pollutants emitted from mostly outside the Smokies are degrading park resources and visitor enjoyment. The burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil, and gas—causes most of the pollution. Inadequate pollution control equipment in power plants, factories, and automobiles is the primary problem.
Wind currents moving toward the southern Appalachians transport pollutants from urban areas, industrial sites, and power plants located both near and far. The height and physical structure of the mountains, combined with predominant weather patterns, tend to trap and concentrate human-made pollutants in and around the national park.
Plants and animals in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are also threatened by airborne sulfur and nitrogen pollution. The park receives the highest sulfur and nitrogen deposits of any monitored national park. These pollutants fall to the ground not only as acid rain, but also as dry particles and cloud water. The average acidity (pH) of rainfall in the park is 4.5, 5-10 times more acidic than normal rainfall (5.0-5.6). Clouds with acidity as low as 2.0 pH bathe the high elevation forests during part of the growing season.
Research shows that certain high elevation soils in the park are receiving so much airborne nitrogen that they are suffering from advanced nitrogen saturation. This condition limits the availability of forest nutrients, especially calcium, to plants and causes the release of toxic aluminum that can hurt vegetation and streamlife. Mountain streams and forest soils are being acidified to the point that the health of the park’s high elevation ecosystems is in jeopardy. Nitrate levels in some streams are approaching the public health standard for drinking water
So we want to relax clean air rules because why?
All of this is so unnecessary when we know how to build power plants that run on clean energy sources. Sharp USA manufactures solar panels right here in Memphis, TN. Why aren’t we encouraging a clean power source that employs Tennesseans?
Please, get a Democrat in the White House, pronto. The Republicans will just rape, pillage and plunder the earth for short-term gain. We need some people in Washington whose vision extends beyond the next shareholder report.