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Ozone Pollution on the rise in the National Park System

September 22, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - As Congress considers two pieces of legislation which would affect ozone pollution control, mainly delaying implementation of rules on the grounds that they're too costly to industry, skies are becoming hazier at many national parks.

Many parks are reporting ozone levels above the health standard, says Stephanie Kodish, managing attorney with the National Parks Conservation Association.

"In 2009, there were 196 days of ozone exceedances. In 2010, there were a total of 223, and with a month and a half approximately left in (the ozone season for) 2011, there are already 234."

Ozone monitors at Voyageurs National Park in far northern Minnesota have not recorded levels exceeding the health-based standard. Even so, Kodish says, the future at Voyageurs is cloudy.

"You have a number of coal-fired power plants within the state that are among the oldest and filthiest, polluting facilities in the country. At the moment, the state is not requiring that they install the state-of-the-art pollution controls, but rather is giving them a free pass."

Critics of pollution standards claim the impact of the new technology is minimal, and the high cost likely would have to be passed down to consumers.

The bills before Congress are HR 2401, the "Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011," and Amendment 15, a rider to the U.S. House of Representatives' Interior appropriations bill proposed by Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN