In & About the Park

In & About the Park

Trump Admin. Attack on Clean Power Plan Endangers Adirondack Trout

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John F. Sheehan
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Trump Admin. Attack on Clean Power Plan Endangers Adirondack Trout
Worse Weather Extremes & Relapse of Acid Rain Would Hurt Fish, Forests, Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Say goodbye to the Adirondack brook trout if the Trump administration repeals the Clean Power Plan, the Adirondack Park’s leading environmental organization said today.

The Adirondack Council today opposed the Trump administration plan to roll back the federal Clean Power Plan, explaining that the move would devastate the Adirondack Park by worsening both climate change and acid rain.  One sure victim will be the iconic Adirondack brook trout, the group said.

“Rolling back emissions standards for carbon would also rollback the progress we have already made in controlling acid rain,” said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council, a national leader in the fight against acid rain.  “That would harm our clean water, forests, wildlife and communities.  Both the economy and the environment would suffer grave damage.”

This week, the Trump administration plans to begin an effort to repeal the Clean Power Plan while also reducing the budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which enforces clean air rules. 

“Burning fossil fuels causes both acid rain and climate change,” Janeway explained. “Power plants all over the country have reduced their use of fossil fuels in an effort to comply with the Clean Power Plan.  That has had the side-benefit of reducing acid rain.”

Overall, the Clean Power Plan is expected to reduce acid rain another 25 percent in the Northeast by 2030. 

“That won’t happen if the Trump plan moves forward.  And the progress we have made since the plan was announced will disappear,” Janeway said.

The Clean Power Plan was finalized by the EPA in 2015, but was suspended shortly thereafter, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued an unusual injunction barring its implementation while a lower court -- the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia -- heard the case.  That court’s decision is still pending.  It is expected later this year.

A return to more severe acid rain damage would not be the only dire consequence of a rollback of climate regulations, Janeway said.

“Any delay in the compliance deadlines for the Clean Power Plan is bad news for the Adirondack Park’s communities,” said Janeway. “Our ski areas, our winter carnivals are taking a beating from recent warm winters.  So are the towns that rely on snowmobiling.  That punishes our local economy.  In addition, most of our towns are on lakes and rivers. Flooding has been a significant problem and remains a major concern for the future.”

The Adirondack wilderness isn’t faring any better, he said.

“Climate change threatens the viability of cold-water fisheries, especially trout in rivers and streams. Some of the park’s boreal wildlife habitat – which contains plants and animals usually found in Canada and Siberia -- is melting away northward, along with the colder weather.”

Climate studies in New England and the Adirondack Park predict that the Adirondack Park’s climate will resemble the current-day Richmond, Virginia by the end of the century without significant cuts in greenhouse gases. 

“That would lead to collapse of the park’s brook trout fisheries in streams,” Janeway said.  “Some few remnants of the species might retreat to colder, deeper lakes.  But, if those lakes are also exposed to greater levels of acid rain, this could turn into a disaster in a hurry, as we would lose those fish too.”

Recent studies on brook trout ponds in the Adirondacks have shown that acid rain makes climate change damage worse.  Acid rain causes lakes to grow clearer and warmer by killing algae and plants that would otherwise prevent sunlight from penetrating to the lake bottom.  Brook trout cannot survive in waters that grow warmer than 68 degrees.

In sum, climate change threatens the Adirondack Park’s water quality, wildlife, trout fisheries, winter sports and flood-prone communities. The Adirondack Park is the transition zone between the temperate, deciduous forests (oak, maple, beech) of the Appalachians and the boreal forests (spruce and fir) of Canada. That transition zone is expected to shift north as the climate warms.

The Clean Power Plan is designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32 percent by 2030 (based on 2005 emissions levels), in an effort to curb climate change. EPA proposed the rule using its authority to protect public health under the Clean Air Act, after Congress refused to take action to curb carbon emissions.

The Clean Power Plan is modeled after the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, in which New York and eight other states are reducing carbon emissions from power plants. California also has a mandatory carbon reduction program.

The EPA said it had anticipated some delays due to legal challenges to the rule, and tried to work them into its implementation schedule for the Clean Power Plan. States are not required to file final compliance plans for carbon reductions until 2018. The first round of reductions is due in 2022.

The Adirondack Council is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. The Council envisions an Adirondack Park comprised of large, core Wilderness areas, surrounded by working forests and farms and vibrant local communities.

The Adirondack Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action. Council members live in all 50 United States.

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