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EPA lags on rules to clear the air in parks

The EPA seemed likely to miss a court deadline Friday for issuing new rules to improve the views and air quality in 156 national parks and wilderness areas.

The Environmental Protection Agency seemed likely to miss a court-ordered deadline Friday for issuing new rules intended to improve the views and air quality in 156 national parks and wilderness areas.

EPA officials were considering on Thursday whether to ask a federal court to extend the deadline. They also were consulting with the advocacy group Environmental Defense, which sued the agency to meet cleanup goals that Congress put in place 28 years ago.

The group has sought to enforce the 1977 Clean Air Act amendments that set goals for improving the visibility in 35 national parks, 120 wilderness areas and Roosevelt Campobello International Park near Lubec, Maine, which is overseen by a U.S.-Canada commission.

“My understanding is they’re not done,” EPA spokesman Rich Hood said of the rules.

“We are reviewing all our options,” he said Thursday. “Going to court ... might be one of those.”

The EPA agreed in August 2003 to establish by this April 15 new rules on haze that would require states to impose limits on air pollution that drifts over national parks.

Affected parks include the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina, Yellowstone in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, and Yosemite in California.

The rules would target 26 types of industrial facilities built between 1962 and 1977, including coal-burning power plants, industrial boilers, smelters, refineries, chemical and cement plants, and pulp and paper mills, Environmental Defense said. The haze is formed by the pollutants sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which other EPA rules also aim to cut.