Today, U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, sent a letter to Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service (NPS), regarding the NPS's intention to use a controversial survey method in order to assign a monetary value to increased "visibility" at national parks and wilderness areas. Instead of actual scientific data, the results from the public opinion survey would be used in cost-benefit analyses by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in future rulemaking under the Clean Air Act (CAA), including the regional haze rule.

"This survey is just a ploy that won't benefit park goers - it only benefits the EPA's ability to make more rules," said Vitter. "The survey could ask if people want the sky to be more blue when they go to a park, and how much they would be willing to pay for that. The surveyed person can answer $100, or some arbitrary amount they'd hypothetically be willing to pay, but could not even have any intention of visiting the park. This method doesn't make sense and obviously lacks credibility and scientific value, and it could lead to significantly more control over air rules for the EPA."

The willingness-to-pay survey is based on what people would say they would do in a hypothetical situation, as opposed to what they actually do in practice. According to economists cited in the letter, these types of surveys frequently yield inflated and inaccurate values.

Click here to read today's letter.