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Environmental groups sue EPA over air pollution in national parks and other public lands

Grand Canyon haze
Ron Clausen/Wikimedia Commons
Haze caused by air pollution frequently impacts Grand Canyon National Park. Environmental groups say the EPA hasn't done enough to require states to curb pollutants that impact views and environment on public lands as well as public health.

A coalition of conservation groups has sued the Environmental Protection Agency. The groups say the EPA hasn’t lived up to its obligation to force states to reduce air pollution.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Sierra Club and dozens of other groups alleges that the EPA hasn’t enforced Regional Haze rules under the Clean Air Act. Those rules require states to submit plans to curb harmful emissions that create haze. But 34 states including Arizona, California and Nevada haven’t yet done so, despite a deadline last summer.

According to the Sierra Club and other groups, the coal-fired Coronado and Springerville generating stations in eastern Arizona are among the state’s biggest polluters and emit harmful sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Environmentalists say coal plants are a major source of haze on public lands.

According to the National Parks Conservation Association, haze impacts 90 percent of national parks, degrading the wilderness experience and harming public health. At the Grand Canyon, coal plants, wildfires, transportation and industrial pollutants can frequently obscure the iconic view. The park is under the highest level of Clean Air Act protection.

The EPA did not comment on the litigation.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.