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Playing Tour Guide

2010 December 7

As any visitor to Washington, D.C. knows, the city has some fantastic museums and breathtaking monuments. When out-of-town family and friends come to Washington, my daughter and I like to take them on a monument tour. This fall we took some friends around the Capitol Building. Overlooking the National Mall from Capitol Hill, the building has been the home of the United States Congress since November 1800.

While walking around the building we noticed several sections that had been damaged by acid rain.  I explained to our tour guide – my daughter – that sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides pollution from power plants and other sources react in the atmosphere to form acid rain. When the acid rain falls on the Capitol Building and the surrounding statues the marble and limestone dissolves, leaving a rough, pock-marked surface.

It seems appropriate that it was in this same building that Congress passed a law to reduce acid rain by limiting sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions from power plants. The Acid Rain Program became law 20 years ago when President George H.W. Bush signed the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments into law.  The Acid Rain Program and now the Clean Air Interstate Rule have resulted in dramatic reductions in pollution from power plants and, as a result, acid rain.

As we finished our Capitol Building tour and started the long walk to the Lincoln Memorial at the other end of the National Mall, I remarked with some pride that the actions of thousands of individuals, including policymakers, scientists, engineers, power plant operators, and concerned citizens, helped protect our cultural heritage on the National Mall in D.C. and the rest of the country.

About the author:  Jeremy Schreifels is a senior policy analyst working in the Clean Air Markets Division.  He and his daughters enjoy visiting the museums and parks around Washington, especially the ice rink on the National Mall.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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