The Clean Air Act and Scenic Landscapes

33 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2013

Date Written: 2012


The combination of the Clean Air Act, which seeks to provide clean air throughout the United States, and the Organic Act, which seeks to conserve the scenery of national parks, provides a double justification for ensuring that the air in national parks is particularly clear. Scenic values presume both an aesthetically appealing landscape and the ability of people to perceive it. But air pollution interferes with the ability to enjoy the scenic sights of national parks. This article uses the example of Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) in western North Dakota to examine the relationship between air pollution and national parks. First, it considers the nature of scenic values, how national parks seek to conserve them, and how those values are maintained at TRNP in particular. Second, it examines how air pollution interferes with visibility at national parks, how the CAA is supposed to eliminate that pollution, and how those efforts have fared at TRNP. Third, it considers why the CAA has struggled to eliminate air pollution from TRNP and other national parks. The experience at TRNP offers three lessons: the implementation of the CAA’s provisions will not necessarily accomplish the statutory goal, the public commitment to scenic values is not as strong as the statutory requirements for protecting those values, and the cooperative federalism framework embedded in the CAA confronts special difficulties in the context of visibility issues.

Keywords: scenic, Clean Air Act, air pollution, haze, EPA, North Dakota, national park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, visibility, Olmsted, Lemke, NAAQS, PSD, BART

JEL Classification: K32

Suggested Citation

Nagle, John Copeland, The Clean Air Act and Scenic Landscapes (2012). 88 North Dakota Law Review 571 (2012); Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 1303. Available at SSRN:

John Copeland Nagle (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0780
United States

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