Tag Archives: Big Bend

Haze, Haze, Go Away!!

Have you ever stepped outside and felt like it was hard to breathe? Or as you entered the city, have noticed a blanket of “fog” covering it? Well what you are feeling and seeing is haze. Haze is caused when sunlight encounters tiny pollution particles in the air. Some light is absorbed by particles. Other light is scattered away before it reaches an observer. More pollutants means more absorption and scattering of light, which reduce the clarity and color of what we see. Haze occurs everywhere but surprisingly, lately the amount of haze has increased particularly at our National Parks such as Big Bend National Park and the Guadalupe Mountains.

Haze causes health problems and degrades visibility in American cities and parks. The majority of Haze comes from coal plants and refineries. These power plants emit huge quantities of pollution into the air creating Haze.

The Clean Air Act requires the State of Texas and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce and eliminate this haze. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a rule, however Texas’s oldest and dirtiest power plants would be exempted from installing readily available, modern pollution controls under the proposed rule. The EPA’s proposed rule would not only jeopardize the Regional Haze Rule, but it will also continue to put our national parks such as Big Bend and the Guadalupe Mountains and the health of all Texas at risk of suffering from Haze.

The EPA’s proposed rule is currently on hold and is being reviewed. The Sierra Club’s campaign to “Save Big Bend and the Guadalupe Mountains” has been putting friendly pressure on the EPA. As part of the campaign the Sierra Club has sent a record number of 7,400 comments to the EPA about this issue. The EPA has said that it will announce its decision on the haze rule in November.

In the meanwhile, the Sierra Club is having a retreat to Big Bend National Park on May 11-13, 2012.  At the retreat, people will be able to see the beauty and treasure of the park while also learning some useful grassroots skills and meeting some other environmental enthusiasts. Everyone is welcome to come! If you are interested or simply have further questions you can email Stephanie Cole at stephanie.cole@sierraclub.org or call (512) 477-1729.

Haze has become a serious issue. With your help we can make sure our health, livelihood, and national parks are protected.

Like the song goes, “Haze, Haze, go away. Please don’t come back another day”

–Lauren Fedele, Sierra Club Intern

“Save Big Bend” Retreat

As you may or may not know, Texas’s iconic and beloved Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains are being obstructed with Haze. You may be wondering, “Who is causing this Haze?” Coal plants and refineries are responsible for this obstruction. Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to reduce and eliminate this haze, however their proposed rule exempts Texas’s oldest and dirtiest power plants from installing readily available, modern pollution controls.

The Sierra Club has collected and sent thousands of comments to the EPA asking  for air pollution safeguards that would reduce haze. The EPA will not announce new haze rules until November, but the Sierra Club is still planning to keep the friendly pressure on the EPA.

You can help us! There are many ways you can help us with this campaign. Probably the funnest way you can help us is by coming on our retreat to Big Bend on May 11-13, 2012.

At the retreat we’ll do the following: 1) Strategize – we need to determine our strategy for convincing EPA to improve the proposed haze safeguard.  Our strategy sessions will include discussions on how we can use the press, social media, and organizing to reach our goals.  2) Training – media, communications, and organizing experts will provide short training sessions to empower us with the tools and knowledge we’ll need to win. In addition, we’ll hear from experienced activists who have been working to reduce air pollution at Big Bend for years. 3) Networking –we’ll provide opportunities for you to get to know the other “Save Big Bend”campaign volunteers.

We definitely need as much support and volunteers as possible if we want to protect our national parks from Haze. If you would like to volunteer and/or join us on our retreat, or if you have any questions, contact Stephanie Cole at  Stephanie.Cole@sierraclub.org or (512) 477-1729.

We hope you can join us!!

– Lauren Fedele, Beyond Coal Sierra Intern

Keep the momentum moving in Texas

There is a story behind everyone, including people who stand for a better environment and clean energy. What’s your story?

For me, seeing the devastating effects of the BP oil spill in the Gulf set off a chain reaction of thinking that piqued my interest in energy issues and led me to take action.  Everyone’s story is different, but it is important to remember that there is an entire nation waiting to see “greener” pastures.

The decision by the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL pipeline may seem like a temporary victory, but it is a victory nonetheless.  It’s important to rejoice in our efforts, and to use the momentum to continue our fight against climate change.  When you see what the efforts of many can do, it becomes easier to remain optimistic, and to continue to push the envelope.

The EPA has been pushing for stricter air standards, which reflects the sentiment of many Texans who want clean air.  Unfortunately, exemptions would allow Texas coal plants to continue to pollute one of the crown jewels of the nation: Big Bend National Park.

These exemptions would allow Texas to purchase emissions allowances from other states.  You have to ask yourself, does that make sense?  Texas coal-fired plants pollute Texan’s air, so we must put pressure on these polluters.  When we band together, we see results.  Let’s make Big Bend National Park a cleaner place for generations to enjoy.  Please take action and bring a victory to the Lone Star State.

– Kat Herrera, Beyond Coal Intern

Weather Forcast at Big Bend: 100% Chance of Haze!

If you’re like most born-and-raised Texans, you’ve visited Big Bend National Park at least once in your lifetime. My first experience with Big Bend was at five years old, when my parents took me over the summer. We hiked Panther Park and all through the Rio Grande Valley. My parents still talk about how I couldn’t get enough of that park. I would demand we go just a few more feet on the trial so I could find a new plant or catch that roadrunner. Big Bend called me back for many more trips, including one Spring Break where my friends and I climbed South Rim and Emory Peak.

We felt like we were on top of the world.

Unfortunately, Big Bend is being threatened in a very serious way. Nearby coal plants are causing a severe amount of haze pollution that is not only obscuring visibility in an area that thrives off of its breathtaking vistas, but is causing a health hazard to visitors.

Haze is the visible pollution emitted from the smokestacks of coal plants. It is caused by fine particulate matter made up of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrous oxide (NOX) and ammonia; you know, the same stuff found in cigarettes and cat pee. Haze can be responsible for serious respiratory illnesses and can trigger asthma attacks, something that is not particularly fun when hiking in the middle of an arid national park.

Apart from the health side effects that we experience and the encroachment on our scenery, haze is also responsible for acid deposition and eutrophication, when minerals and nutrients build up to unnatural levels and can kill animal life.

In short, haze pollution is not only killing us, it’s killing our park!

What can be done about this serious problem? How can we preserve Big Bend for our children and grandchildren? First, we have to understand the emissions rules set in place for these coal plants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently in a transition process of determining the best method of reducing pollution from these power plants.

Most pollution from coal plants had never been regulated until this past year, when EPA finalized its landmark mercury health protections and set targets for reducing pollutants like soot and smog. With EPA’s proposal for haze pollution, ALL coal plants within a certain proximity to national parks like Big Bend must reduce their haze emissions. Requiring these plants to reduce their pollution is extremely important. The degree of reductions is also important – EPA must ensure that the pollution reductions are meaningful.

The alternative to CSAPR (In actuality, some are considering CSAPR  alternative to this) is BART, or Best Alternative Retrofit Technology. BART would require ALL coal plants within a certain proximity to Class 1 National Parks to reduce their haze emissions down to a specified degree. Sound like a good idea? That’s because it is. BART will ensure the haze factories near our state park will be required to eliminate a certain amount of haze emissions from our sky.

Here’s how you can help. The EPA is taking comments on these standards until February 23rd. Submitting a comment to the EPA is fast, easy, and meaningful. Tell the EPA that we want to keep our national park as beautiful as the day we first visited.

I want Big Bend to remain as beautiful as when I was five years old, as aw-inspiring as when I felt on top of the world that one spring. I’m betting you feel the same way.

 

 

 

 

Here’s how you can help:

  • Go online and send in a comment to the EPA telling them that you don’t stand for lax haze pollution standards. Be sure to personalize your message!
  • If you want to send pictures of your trips at Big Bend to the EPA, here’ the snail mail address. Show them how important this landmark has been in your life

EPA Docket Center, Environmental Protection Agency, Mailcode 6102T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington DC 20460

  • Tell your friends! Get others to send a comment to the EPA, share the comment link on facebook or twitter and get everyone you know involved!

Haze? No Way-ze!

Do you love Big Bend and the Guadalupe Mountains? They need your help. We have a critical window to clean up air pollution in our National Parks.

Join the Sierra Club in encouraging the EPA to protect our beautiful parks and state from haze pollution. You’re invited to RSVP and join us on a conference call to plan the protection of our Texas heritage.

Event Details

WHO: Texans who want clean air at Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains
WHAT: A conference call (it’s free for you to join– all you need is a phone)
WHEN: Thursday, February 2nd, 7 pm CST
**Call-in information: dial-in number: 866.501.6174, pin: 317.9401.1892#
WHERE: Your phone!
RSVP: http://action.sierraclub.org/site/Calendar?id=159302

Questions:
 Contact Stephanie Cole at 512-477-1729 or stephanie.cole@sierraclub.org

Jessica Olson, Texas Sierra Club