Texas: Clearing Big Bend Air Will Take 146 Years

Staff Report
The Associated Press

BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, Texas (AP) - Delia White once had picturesque views of rugged mountains in every direction while growing up in remote Big Bend community of Terlingua. On a clear day, she could see jagged peaks a 100 miles away.

Now, on most summer days the 53-year-old convenience store owner can barely make out some of the highest peaks of the nearby Big Bend National Park.

The thick brown haze that hovers over the sprawling park on warm days has been a problem for at least two decades. Federal and state environmental officials agree the cloud of pollution caused by factories and power plants hundreds or thousands of miles away is a problem that needs to be cleaned up.

But officials differ, by about 91 years, on how long it should take.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has asked states to clean up areas they've dubbed "Regional Class I Areas" by 2064. Those are areas that include national parks and other federal lands. But officials at the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality have decided it'll likely take until 2155 to clear the air over the park.

TCEQ officials say the haze problem is complicated because the pollution is funneled to Big Bend by winds from East Texas, the Ohio River Valley and northeastern Mexico.