PRESIDENT CLINTON AND VICE
PRESIDENT GORE: CLEARING THE AIR IN OUR NATIONAL PARKS
April 22, 1999
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 miles to 68 miles, a loss of nearly 50 percent. Other
examples: Acadia (from 74 to 19 miles), Glacier (from 84 to 35
miles), Great Smoky Mountains (from 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 already 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.