EPA: State needs clean-air plan for parks

Posted Jan. 14, 2009, at 9:09 p.m.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is calling out Maine and 36 other states for failing to file plans for reducing air pollution near national parks and other federally owned sites popular with tourists.

States were required to submit plans to the federal government by December 2007 on how they are addressing haze issues at 156 national parks and wilderness areas. Maine is required to file reports on three such “Class 1” areas: Acadia National Park, Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge and Roosevelt Campobello Interna-tional Park, which is jointly run by a U.S. and Canadian commission.

The head of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s air quality division said Wednesday the state plans to file the necessary plans later this year.

“We’re back on track,” said Jim Brooks, director of DEP’s Bureau of Air Quality. “We’re a little bit late … but we are in the review process.”

Brooks attributed the delay to a court ruling that temporarily invalidated a federal program that is key to reducing the amount of pollution that drifts into Maine from other states. The federal Clean Air Interstate Rule, which has since been reinstated by the courts, requires large producers of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide to significantly reduce emissions.

That rule was important, Brooks said, because most of the sulfur dioxide that causes the haze that impairs visibility from, say, Cadillac Mountain in Acadia, blows into Maine from coal-fired power plants in upwind states.

Brooks said the plan that Maine will file with the EPA also will have to include ways the state is addressing haze-causing emissions from local sources, such as homes and businesses that burn heating oil.

“Everyone has to do their part,” Brooks said.

Several environmental groups plan to make sure that happens.

The EPA put the 37 states on notice after the National Parks Conservation Association, Earthjustice and the Environmental Defense Fund essentially put the EPA on notice about the delinquent reports. The three organizations filed a complaint against the EPA in federal court last October.

Kevin Lynch, an attorney for the Colorado-based Environmental Defense Fund, said the groups pursued the issue because the EPA plays a critical role in making sure states are living up to their obligations cleaning up the air around national parks.

“What the rule requires is for the states to do their part,” Lynch said Wednesday.

A 2004 report by the National Parks Conservation Association in conjunction with two other groups ranked Acadia as having the fourth most polluted air among national parks, due in large part to Acadia’s location along the coast downwind from some of the East Coast’s biggest metropolitan areas.

kmiller@bangordailynews.net

990-8250

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