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!