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Editorial: Stefanik votes against the Adirondacks

Adirondack Daily Enterprise - Editorial
July 1, 2015

If you moved to the Adirondacks because of the clean air and water, the Park's new congresswoman is not your friend.

Rep. Elise Stefanik of Willsboro voted this week in favor of a bill that, if the Senate echoes the House of Representatives' decision, would gut the Clean Air Act of 1990.

If that happens and it isn't stopped soon, we might see serious damage to the Park's flora and fauna in our lifetime.

The House voted to postpone states' compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan. The Republican-led chamber passed the "Ratepayer Protection Act" 247-180, a 58-to-42-percent ratio. The would extend the deadline for mandatory compliance with regulations under the Clear Air Act intended to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.

All it would take is for a governor to tell the EPA that its regulations hurt electricity ratepayers in his or her state, or that they make the state's power grid less reliable.

That's it - a political order - and an entire state gets out of the Clean Air Act.

Why would Rep. Stefanik vote for such a thing?

Is it because she feels a stronger loyalty to her party that favors the oil, gas and coal companies than her own constituents in her district, who are directly affected by the polluted air? The congresswoman says she understands the importance of protecting our environment, but her vote on this bill says otherwise.

She said it was to keep North Country residents' electric bills from going up, but that's just blowing smoke. Supposedly it costs these fossil-fuel-burning power plants more money to upgrade to an acceptable manner, and then they pass the cost on to the consumer.

But this is not necessarily so, and New York is an excellent example of this.

New York has long kept tight controls on emissions at this state's power plants, and that's where New Yorkers largely get their electricity. Also, our state regulates electrical rates, making power companies go through an application process to raise them.

It's highly unlikely North County people would see any difference in their bills due to making Midwestern power plants obey the law.

Besides, New York's State Acid Deposition Control Act, enacted in 1984, showed cleaning up the state's power plants didn't harm the economy.

If only Rep. Stefanik voted with her own state's interests.

In the Adirondacks, tourism is our major industry. How many will want to fish lakes with mercury and other pollutants in the fish, or no fish due to acid rain? Remember, at the time the Clean Air Act was passed, 700 lakes and ponds - roughly a quarter of them - were too acidic to support life.

Acid rain and snow have also killed forests in the past. They cause soil to release aluminum, which makes trees sick and die.

Scientists have also identified carbon dioxide emissions as a primary driver of global climate change, which would drastically change the plant and animal makeup up here. Our forests would become more like those of Pennsylvania, losing boreal coniferous trees and northern animals.

Then there's mercury, a toxin that especially ends up in fish and loons at the top of the aquatic food chain. The state of New York still issues all kinds of health warnings against eating even small amounts of many Adirondack fish, due mostly to mercury.

Then across the East, this bill would also increase health costs by causing more cases of asthma and pulmonary disease.
Things have improved greatly since the Clean Air Act was passed, but it took decades of hard work. This bill would turn back the clock.

Come on, Elise. Your Republican predecessors like Reps. John McHugh and John Sweeney consistently broke party ranks to vote and lobby to reduce air pollution dumping from other states onto the Adirondacks. Republican Gov. George Pataki also was a champion for the Adirondack woods and waters. They all got it. Even with such a bipartisan team, though, it was a slow, hard push against the forces of Big Coal.

So why are you fighting against us?

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