STANDING AT BEAR POND, SCHUMER WARNS EPA NOT TO UNDO YEARS OF PROGRESS IN THE ADIRONDACK PARK’S ONGOING RECOVERY FROM ACID RAIN; SENATOR SAYS PARK’S NATURAL WONDERS ARE THE LIFEBLOOD OF THE REGIONAL ECONOMY, CALLS ON EPA TO IMMEDIATELY RECONSIDER AND REVERSE COURSE

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Source: United States Senator for New York Charles E Schumer

08.10.18

As The Hardest Hit Area By Acid Rain In The Country, The Adirondack Park Has Made Significant Strides In Its Ongoing Recovery From The Pollution, Even Though Many Lakes And Ponds Continue To Struggle To Fully Recover

The Clean Air Act, And Regulations Under It Like The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule & The Mercury And Air Toxics Standards Have Helped Bear Pond Become Ten Times Less Acidic Over The Past Thirty Years; Schumer Today Vowed To Fight Any Attempt To Repeal And Roll Them Back

Schumer To EPA: When It Comes To Acid Rain, We Need To Be Moving Forward, Not Backward 

Standing at Bear Pond, in Franklin County, N.Y., U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today revealed that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed, or has expressed an openness toward, repealing and rolling back critical standards that have helped the Adirondack Park make significant strides towards recovering from acid rain damages. Specifically, Schumer explained that the EPA has recently proposed repealing the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which would help combat climate change and help reduce levels of other harmful pollutants. Just as troubling, the EPA has signaled they are reconsidering the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. Schumer said that both of these proposed rollbacks would threaten years of progress in reducing the massive burden of acid rain from the Adirondacks, and announced his staunch opposition to both moves. Schumer said that the administration’s repealing and rolling back of these regulations would be a step in the wrong direction, and that they must be left in place, so that Adirondack Park can continue both recovering from acid rain and acting as a valuable economic driver for the region.

“Over the years, acid rain has been a plague on the beautiful Adirondack Park by polluting lakes and ponds, hindering the park’s natural beauty almost to the point of no return, and removing valuable sources of tourism revenue from the region. While we have made progress combatting the toxic pollutants that cause acid rain and harm human health, we should not and absolutely cannot rest on our laurels, and must keep pushing forward,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why I was so alarmed to hear that the EPA is considering repealing and rolling back laws and standards that have been responsible for so much of that positive progress. When it comes to acid rain, we need to be moving forward, not backward, and these efforts from the administration are huge steps in the wrong direction.”

Schumer explained that air quality and ecosystems in New York and the Northeast have suffered significantly from emissions from Midwest coal-fired power plants that produce acid rain. Due in part to its ecological makeup, Schumer said that the Adirondacks have endured the worst damage in the nation from acid rain. Schumer said that while the Park has suffered greatly from acid rain, commonsense legislation like the Clean Air Act, and regulations like the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards have allowed the region to make real strides over the last three decades.

The State of New York has used Bear Pond to collect data on acid rain damage for the United States Environmental Protection Agency since 1985. Schumer said that the first recorded test results at the site showed a pH level of 5.1, which is so low that native species and wildlife struggled to survive in the area. Today, the pH level of Bear Pond is a much more reasonable 6.2, which is high enough to support native species and wildlife. Schumer explained that while this is only a 1.1 point increase, that the jump actually entails that the pond became more than ten times less acidic. Schumer pointed to landmark legislation like the Clean Air Act as the reason for this dramatic shift, and said that any attempts from the administration to roll back vital Clean Air Act protections like the Clean Power Plan and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards must be thwarted, in order to protect Adirondack Park’s natural features, and in-hand, a valuable source of tourism revenue for the region.

Specifically, Schumer explained, the EPA has proposed the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which is a critical part of the United States’ efforts to combat climate change and reduce other harmful pollution, and is considering replacing it with regulations that would, in all likelihood, lead to an increase in the emissions of air pollutants like sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide is one of the primary pollutants responsible for acid rain, and any increase in sulfur dioxide emissions could undo years of good progress combatting acid rain. The administration has also signaled that they are reconsidering the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which were the first national standards to reduce mercury and other toxic pollution from coal- and oil-fired plants. Schumer said that rolling these standards back would have a disastrous effect on the lakes and rivers across the Adirondack Park, and thus, the regional economy — not to mention the serious negative impacts that they would have on human health. Schumer said that the Adirondacks have made too much progress fighting back against acid rain to take such a large step in the wrong direction.  

Schumer also expressed serious concerns that the EPA has not been adequately enforcing or requiring compliance with the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, also known as the Good Neighbor Rule, was devised to protect “downwind” states from being “America’s tailpipe” and being on the receiving end of all of the adverse effects of ozone pollution, like smog, in cities, which can cause myriad adverse health impacts. Schumer explained that while the Adirondacks are not often thought of as a place with a lot of smog, the very process by which ozone is scrubbed from power plant smokestacks also performs the role of capturing sulfur dioxides, nitrogen oxides, and mercury, as well as other pollutants that have damaged the Adirondacks.

Schumer explained that the Adirondack Park was set aside as “forever wild” by the New York State Constitution in 1894, meaning that the park has very strict rules in terms of allowing development and private industry in the park. Therefore, Schumer explained, the Park’s natural beauty and tourism are its main economic driver. While the Adirondack Park has started to make progress in their recovery from the massive damages done by acid rain over the years, Schumer said that there are still more than 50 popular lakes and rivers in the area that are so heavily polluted that fish caught in them are not entirely safe to eat. Schumer stated that the progress the Adirondack Park has made must not be undone, and that the EPA should strive to help the Park build on it rather than start moving in the opposite direction.

“The Adirondack Park is showing very encouraging signs of recovery from the ravages of decades of acid rain,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway.  “Fish are returning to lakes where they couldn’t live 20 years ago.  Loon populations are rising.  Our air and water are cleaner.  The park is full of visitors.  Policy changes and budget cuts at the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency threaten these gains.  We are grateful to Senator Schumer for making acid rain and smog a priority and working to protect the Adirondacks from this danger to its environment and economy.”

Schumer was joined at Bear Pond by William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council, and John Sheehan, Director of Communications of the Adirondack Council.

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