New EPA effort to cut haze in national parks

The U.S. EPA this week released new regulations designed to clean up hazy air in 156 national parks and wilderness areas. The rules aim to eliminate 1 million tons of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide emissions a year by 2014. States must identify the industrial sites smogging up places like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where air pollution can cut visibility from 90 miles to about 20 miles. Targeted plants will have five years to install the best available emissions-control technology. The EPA estimates costs of $1.5 billion a year to industry, but $8.5 billion to $10 billion a year in public health benefits and $240 million a year in increased tourism. Still, even with this victory — part of a court settlement between the EPA and Environmental Defense, which sued the agency to enforce the Clean Air Act — activists aren’t exactly breathing a sigh of relief: the new rules exempt some of the worst polluters from scrubbing their stacks.