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Critics: EPA slow to clear the air at parks

SEATTLE - More than 30 years after Congress set a goal of clearing the pollution-caused haze that obscures scenic vistas at some of America's wildest and most famous natural places, progress is still slow in coming.

Saturday marks the deadline for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to approve most state plans aimed at curbing pollution from coal-fired power plants and industrial sources to improve visibility at 156 national parks and wilderness areas such as Shenandoah, Mount Rainier and the Grand Canyon.

But as of Thursday, the agency hadn't approved any state plans - or come up with its own, as required.

"Here's a program intended to clean up skies of the nation's most pristine areas. It has been pushed aside for too long and must be made a top-tier priority," said Stephanie Kodish, attorney for the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association.

The group plans next week to file a notice of intent to sue the EPA for missing the regulatory deadline.

Nearly three-quarters of states failed to meet an initial 2007 deadline to submit plans requiring decades-old facilities that contribute to haze at parks to update old equipment. So far, only 34 states have done so.

- AP

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