The trouble with National Parks for a city boy like me is too much wilderness. I am only able to stand up on asphalt. So it is comforting to find out the Bush administration is looking out for folks like me, should by some quirk of fate we find ourselves outdoors in a National Park with no Starbucks within blocks. Soon we'll be able to see the soul satisfying outline of a huge coal fired power plant, an oil refinery or some other familiar polluter to make us feel at home. It's just too bad that the EPA's own administrators can't get onboard:
The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing new air-quality rules that would make it easier to build coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other major polluters near national parks and wilderness areas, even though half of the EPA's 10 regional administrators formally dissented from the decision and four others criticized the move in writing.
Documents obtained by The Washington Post show that the administration's push to weaken Clean Air Act protections for "Class 1 areas" nationwide has sparked fierce resistance from senior agency officials. All but two of the regional administrators objecting to the proposed rule are political appointees.
The proposal would change the practice of measuring pollution levels near national parks, which is currently done over three-hour and 24-hour increments to capture emission spikes during periods of peak energy demand; instead, the levels would be averaged over a year. Under this system, spikes in pollution would no longer violate the law.
In written submissions, EPA regional administrators have argued that this switch would undermine critical air-quality protections for parks such as Virginia's Shenandoah, which is frequently plagued by smog and poor visibility. (Washington Post)
What's wrong with these administrators? Afraid of a little acid rain? Poor visibility? Well the National Parks already have those problems, so what's the big deal? They've been classified as "visually impaired" for a long time (we can just get them seeing eye dogs). Lead smelters? Children don't spend enough time in the Park to get poisoned. They have to be in School. They wouldn't want to be Left Behind.
It's coal, baby, coal. We're sure going to miss the Bush administration. We sure are.