Utilities seek to build power plants near national parks

Visibility in many U.S. national parks is declining and demand for electricity is rising — two trends that are set to collide. Since 2000, the number of applications to build power plants within 62 miles of park boundaries has quadrupled, relative to the previous five years. More than 10 percent of those plants would be coal-fired. “The interior West is witnessing the biggest resurgence in coal-fired power plants in a generation,” said Vickie Patton of Environmental Defense. This resurgence comes at a time when several studies of national parks, particularly in the West, show the number of low-visibility days on the rise. Though in most cases states issue permits for power plants, the federal Clean Air Act requires park officials to review possible impacts on national parks larger than 5,000 acres. Officials say, however, that such reviews rarely stop permits from being issued. Paul Hoffman, deputy assistant secretary at the Interior Department, says there really isn’t a problem: “We can have our power and clean air, too.” And you were worried!