PRESIDENT CLINTON AND VICE PRESIDENT GORE: CLEARING THE AIR IN OUR NATIONAL PARKS
April 22, 1999
Today, Vice President Gore commemorates Earth Day by traveling to
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to announce new federal efforts to
improve air quality in our national parks and wilderness areas. The new
"regional haze" rule aims to restore pristine skies and unspoiled views
at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Mount Rainier, Acadia and the Great Smoky
Mountains national parks, and other natural treasures that draw 290
million visitors a year.
Hazy Skies, Spoiled Views. Air pollution from power plants, cars and
factories travels hundreds or thousands of miles to some of our countrys
most remote lands, creating serious air pollution problems in many
national parks and federal wilderness areas. During much of the year, a
veil of white or brown haze hangs over many parks, obscuring some of our
most famous scenic vistas. This haze is caused primarily by tiny
particles in the air that absorb and scatter sunlight, reducing the
clarity and color of what we see.
In the Grand Canyon, haze on some days reduces visibility from 128
to 68 miles, a loss of nearly 50 percent. Other examples: Acadia
to 19 miles), Glacier (from 84 to 35 miles), Great Smoky Mountains
55 to 15 miles), Mount Rainier (from 103 to 21 miles), and
Yosemite (from 132 to 41 miles).
In addition to reducing visibility, pollutants such as soot and smog pose
serious health risks, particularly to those suffering chronic respiratory
disease. Air pollution also threatens park-related economic activity
visitors spend over $10 billion in national parks and surrounding
communities, generating over 200,000 jobs.
Restoring Pristine Skies. One goal of the federal Clean Air Act is to
eliminate impairments to visibility in national parks and wilderness
areas resulting from manmade pollution. The new Environmental Protection
Agency "regional haze" rule announced today represents a long-range
national strategy for achieving that goal. The rule:
Flexibility and Regional Cooperation. Many antipollution efforts
under way, including vehicle emissions controls and the tough new smog
and soot standards announced by the Administration in 1997, will help
reduce regional haze. The new rule reflecting extensive input from
states, industry, park visitors, and air quality experts allows states
flexibility to devise cost-effective strategies to improve visibility. In
some cases, for instance, states can develop emissions trading programs
instead of strict technology-based standards. The rule also encourages
states to work in partnership, recognizing that in many areas regional
approaches may work best.
- Establishes the year 2064 as the timeframe for restoring visibility to
natural conditions in 156 "Class 1" areas 37 national parks and 119
federal wilderness areas encompassing 17,076 square miles.
- Requires states to submit successive 10-year plans describing efforts
to achieve "reasonable progress" toward the goal of restoring visibility
to natural conditions. The first plans are due from 2003 to 2008,
depending on the region.
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