TN - July 1 - Environmental
Protection Agency Administrator Christine Whitman is touring Great
Smoky Mountains National Park today to tout a Bush Administration
clean-air policy that will result in more pollution in the park,
according to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).
Whitman slated her visit in response to an invitation by Senator
Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to see first-hand the air pollution crisis in
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, site of the highest recorded
acid deposition in North America.
"We are grateful to Senator Frist for bringing Administrator
Whitman to the Smokies to learn about the air pollution crisis at
the nation's most visited national park," said Don Barger,
southeast regional director for the National Parks Conservation
Association. "Unfortunately, the Bush Administration Clear Skies
Initiative creates a smokescreen for the its recently announced
rollbacks of the Clean Air Act, an attack unprecedented in the
law's 32-year history."
This will be Whitman's first public appearance after a
controversial announcement to weaken the New Source Review (NSR)
program established by the 1977 Clean Air Act amendments. The
existing program requires new sources of air pollution, including
power plants and refineries, to install state of the art
pollution-control technology, with special provisions to protect
parks and wilderness areas. NSR also requires old facilities
undergoing major modifications that result in pollution increases
to install pollution controls that new sources must have. The Bush
Administration would allow 17,000 outdated facilities, including
power plants, to operate indefinitely with limited or no pollution
controls. The Bush Administration also intends to abandon or limit
measures to ensure that parks and wilderness areas are protected
from new source emissions.
"An ill-advised loophole in the law has allowed these old, dirty
plants to profit at the expense of the health of people and parks,"
said Barger. "Now that it's time to pay the bill for the last
quarter century's pollution, this Administration wants to change
the rules. It is a shameful violation of the public trust."
EPA states these rollbacks are justified because President
Bush's Clear Skies Initiative (CSI) would make the program
unnecessary. CSI, through an act of Congress, would set pollution
caps for nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, and mercury. Although
formally announced by President Bush in
February 2002, as yet no member of Congress has introduced a
bill that reflects the president's proposal. On June 27, the Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee approved S. 556, the Clean
Power Act, an effective proposal introduced by Vermont Senator Jim
Jeffords. The Clean Power Act would require deeper cuts in
emissions of all three pollutants in a much shorter time frame than
would CSI, without weakening existing Clean Air law. It also would
require reductions of carbon dioxide emissions, while CSI would
allow these emissions to increase. Because CSI would eliminate
several programs in addition to NSR, an analysis shows that CSI
would offer fewer protections for clean air than would implementing
the existing Clean Air Act.
"CSI coupled with these rollbacks of the Clean Air Act simply
will not protect parks and people under siege by air pollution,"
said Barger. "While the science and regulation of air pollution can
be complex, one thing is simple: we must do more, not less, to
protect parks and people from air pollution. The Administration is
going in the wrong direction."
In March, Administrator Whitman testified before the Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee claiming that the most
improvements in air quality under CSI would be located "along the
Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains." This area
has traditionally been one of the most polluted in the country. In
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, human-generated haze reduces
views up to 80 percent. In the last four summers, park visitors
found smog levels hazardous to their health on more than 140 days
-- one out of every three days in the season. NPCA has placed the
Smokies on its list of America's Ten Most Endangered National Parks
for the past four years because of air pollution.
"Because the Smokies suffers the highest levels of pollution,
it's likely to see improvements from any serious emission reduction
plan," said Barger. "What the EPA Administrator avoids saying is
that not only is the Bush Administration weakening existing law,
its CSI proposal will fall far short of what the park needs."
Founded in 1919, the National Parks Conservation Association is America's
only private, nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated solely to protecting,
preserving, and enhancing the National Park System. NPCA has more than 425,000
members. A library of national park information, including fact sheets, congressional
testimony, position statements, and press releases, can be found on NPCA's Web
site at http://www.eparks.org