Five-Year Study Confirms Big Bend Haze Tied To Power Plants

September 17, 2004
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(17 September 2004 ? Austin)  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today is expected to release the results of the five-year Big Bend Regional Aerosol and Visibility Observational (BRAVO) study of the haze that obscures the majestic views in West Texas' Big Bend National Park.  National Park Service long-term monitoring data show that the pollution is worsening, and the long-awaited report confirms that much of the haze in the park is due to pollution from coal-fired power plants in Central and East Texas, the Eastern U.S. and Mexico.

"The results of this study are a strong wake up call for Texas and EPA to clean up the power plant pollution that harms human health and cloaks Big Bend National Park in a veil of haze," said Dr. Ramon Alvarez, a scientist with the Austin office of Environmental Defense. "The state and federal governments have spent years on a study that confirms the obvious: Texas and EPA must take action to cut the pollution from power plant smokestacks to achieve cleaner, healthier air." 

Since 1977, the Clean Air Act has mandated "the prevention of any future, and the remedying of any existing, impairment of visibility" at premier national parks and wilderness areas, including Big Bend National Park. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is responsible for achieving the federally mandated visibility goals at Big Bend.

The National Park Service has raised repeated concerns about the worsening air pollution at Big Bend but state regulators have done little to require Texas power plants to reduce haze-forming pollution.  Instead, TCEQ has repeatedly put off taking any action until final publication of the multi-year scientific report.
"The TCEQ is finally out of excuses." Alvarez said.  "It's long past time for them to do what the federal law requires them to do ? enforce the cleanup of coal-fired power plants in Texas.  Once Texas shows a good-faith commitment to tackle the problem here at home, we'll be in good position to work with Mexico to reduce the emissions from their two big Carbón power plants. But we have to get started."

Environmental Defense launched a new website, clearbigbendair.org, to call public attention to the issue.

The website features a "Solutions" page recommending a number of state, federal and bi-national measures to lower the air pollution contributing to the haze at Big Bend.