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EPA Completely Overrules Texan Plans To Reduce Haze From Air Pollution At The National Parks

Critics called the state’s plan, which rejected a request to cut sulfur emissions at coal plants, a “do nothing” strategy. The EPA now wants six power plants to slash emissions by 80,000 tons.

The view from Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, is often obscured by haze from both local and regional air pollution sources. Credit: Martha Pskowski/Inside Climate News.

GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, Texas—Reviewing the day’s hike over a dinner of chicken tacos earlier this summer, Cristina Ramirez told her fellow campers that she felt a mix of elation and disappointment.

That morning, the group of campers had tramped up Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at 8,751 feet. The strenuous 8.5-mile round-trip hike attracts thousands of visitors to Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas each year. Ramirez, 30, who was visiting from San Antonio, said she savored the opportunity, noting that many of her friends and relatives have never even had the chance to enter a national park.

But she was troubled to find that the air pollution she experiences at home—a smoky haze, attributed mainly to coal plant emissions—had reached the remote Chihuahuan Desert. The views from Guadalupe Peak are often obscured by haze, especially in summer months when the temperature rises.

“Everyone tells you to go outside and get some fresh air,” Ramirez said. “But what happens when the places that you’re supposed to get outside are not really safe from the effects of air pollution?”

NPCA and other environmental groups are pushing state and federal regulators to take aggressive action to eliminate air pollution at national parks through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Regional Haze Rule. Issued in 1999 under the Clean Air Act, the rule calls for state and federal regulators to work together to improve visibility in national parks and wilderness areas.

States submit progress reports every five years and update their action plans, known as implementation plans, every 10 years. Each plan is divided into an initial phase that covers the largest individual polluters and a second one that focuses on ongoing emissions reductions from a range of sources.

In July 2021, Texas submitted its updated implementation plan to the EPA. But in April 2023,

the EPA announced that the plan’s first phase was inadequate because it did not include the best available technology for reducing sulfur dioxide and particulate matter.


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