Planning a Trip to Big Bend National Park? Thank EPA for the Better View!

Big Bend National Park Source: flikr/MarcusCalderon

Big Bend National Park Source: flikr/MarcusCalderon

The vistas at some of Texas’ natural treasures, like Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park, aren’t the same as they used to be. Right now seven coal-fired power plants in Texas are emitting such large amounts of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and other pollutants that they are obstructing visibility, causing what’s known as “regional haze.” That’s why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently held a public hearing in Austin to take comments on its plan to restore visibility in these parks, as well as the Wichita Falls National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, since Texas’ dirty power plant emissions also affect our neighbor to the north. EPA is focusing its attention on Texas, in particular, after the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) proposed an unreasonable plan to restore “natural visibility” in the parks by 2155 (140 years from now!). Frankly put, waiting until 2155 to restore natural visibility in our national parks is not an acceptable course of action from the TCEQ, as Texas is required to show “reasonable progress” toward a national goal of restoring visibility by 2064. Texas should step up as a leader to keep our state a great place to live by prioritizing public and environmental health, while building out our robust renewable energy sector and supporting clean technologies that don’t obstruct our health or views.

Fortunately, EPA proposes to ensure that Texas meets the regional haze requirements through an alternative plan that will provide improved visibility in these areas, as well as health benefits:

[Tweet “New Blog Post: Planning a Trip to Big Bend National Park? Thank @EPAregion6 for the Better View! #CleanAir”]

Installing scrubbers

A supporter of EPA’s Clean Air Plan Proposal for Oklahoma and Texas Regional Haze attended the EPA’s public hearing in Austin, TX on January 13, 2015.

A supporter of EPA’s Clean Air Plan Proposal for Oklahoma and Texas Regional Haze attended the EPA’s public hearing in Austin, TX on January 13, 2015.

The heart of EPA’s proposal requires the seven Texas coal power plants to meet new, lower emission limits. To meet these limits, the power plants would install (or upgrade) a “scrubber” on each of the coal-burning units. Scrubbers are a well-established and cost-effective emissions reductions technology, and they have been required for new power plants since 1979. They work by creating a chemical reaction in the smokestacks so that fewer harmful emissions escape into the atmosphere. Because SO2 is a hazardous pollutant associated with asthma and bronchitis, scrubbers provide both improved visibility and health benefits. By installing this commonsense technology, EPA estimates that up to 94-98 percent of the SO2 emissions could be reduced. This is equivalent to nearly 230,000 tons of dirty SO2 emissions (the average car weighs one ton, so you can think about those emissions as a pile of 230,000 cars).

Setting a timeline and moving forward

EPA proposes allowing the Texas power plants three to five years to install (or upgrade) scrubbers and demonstrate that they are complying with the emissions requirements. The power plants will also need to show that the coal-burning units have cleaner emissions through on-going monitoring and reporting.

Leading the country on natural beauty

The U.S. has a goal to return natural visibility conditions in our national treasures in our lifetime, by 2064. EPA’s proposal helps put Texas back on track to making reasonable progress toward meeting this goal. Even better, Texas can harness more clean energy, where we have become real leaders, to transition away from the burning of fossil fuels, like coal. But until this transition occurs, we need protections to preserve the vistas in our national parks for future generations.

Support for the proposal needed

As part of the proposal, EPA is taking comments from the public on its proposal to improve the regional haze plan for Texas (and Oklahoma). Don’t miss out on your chance to let your voice be heard for clean air. All comments should be submitted by April 20, 2015.

And thanks to EPA for helping to restore views of our national treasures!

This entry was posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, TCEQ and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.