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Brexit wins at the polls in the U.K.; major changes come to New England immigration courts today; and more than a million acres in California have been cleared for oil and gas drilling.

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The House passes legislation to reign in drug prices, Sen. Bernie Sanders is on the upswing, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang plays Iowa congressional candidate J.D. Scholten - who's running against long-time incumbent Steve King - in a game of basketball.

EPA Defends Haze-Fighting Plans for National Parks

PHOTO: It is hardly a sweeping vista when it's marred by haze. The EPA says the Clean Air Act includes keeping air haze-free in national parks and wilderness areas, but several states have challenged the agency's plans to accomplish that, most recently in the Grand Canyon. Photo credit: Air Resource Specialists, Inc., for National Park Service.
PHOTO: It is hardly a sweeping vista when it's marred by haze. The EPA says the Clean Air Act includes keeping air haze-free in national parks and wilderness areas, but several states have challenged the agency's plans to accomplish that, most recently in the Grand Canyon. Photo credit: Air Resource Specialists, Inc., for National Park Service.
March 9, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO – Today in U.S. Appeals Court in San Francisco, the state of Arizona is challenging the Environmental Protection Agency in a case with implications for air quality across the country.

The EPA steps in with a plan to reduce air pollution in national parks and wilderness areas when it determines a state's plan isn't strong enough.

The agency maintains pollution from three coal-fired power plants in Arizona affects air quality and visibility at the Grand Canyon and other sites.

Stephanie Kodish, director and counsel of the Clean Air Program for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), says the case has implications for neighboring states and beyond.

"The design of the program looks regionally and acknowledges that air pollution has no boundaries,” she stresses. “It's the same suite of pollutants to be regulated under the visibility protection mandate as are under health protections – nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution, particulate matter."

Kodish says at least two of the coal plants are proposing their own pollution control updates.

Conservation groups are siding with the EPA in the case, saying it isn't only park visitors' views and health affected by polluted haze, but plant life, wildlife and historic sites as well.

Attorney Michael Hiatt with Earthjustice is representing the NPCA and the Sierra Club in fighting Arizona's appeal. He says research has shown protecting the clean air and the great views of the national park experience has economic benefits.

"Visibility impairment decreases visitors' enjoyment,” he says. “They'll take shorter visits, spend less money at the national parks and surrounding communities. So, improving visibility is important."

Kodish adds California has some of the worst haze problems in the nation, in places such as Joshua Tree, Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks. But she says California's situation is different than Arizona's, and the state is making headway.

"The Regional Haze Program requires steady reductions over time, and so hopefully in the next round of cleanup plans, California will continue to make strides toward cleaner air," she explains.

The EPA has won similar court challenges to its regional haze plans by North Dakota and Oklahoma.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - CA