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Acid Rain Experts Gather in Saratoga to Celebrate Progress, Set New Goals for Recovery of Adirondack Park

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Acid Rain Experts Gather in Saratoga to Celebrate Progress, Set New
Goals for Recovery of Adirondack Park
U.S.E.P.A., Nat’l Enviro Orgs, State Officials, Regional Experts to Participate on Oct. 16

For more information:
John Sheehan, Adirondack Council, 518-441-1340 cell; 518-432-1770 ofc
Sharyn Stein, Environmental Defense Fund, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

For immediate release: Monday, October 13, 2014

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Two of the nation’s leading organizations in the fight against acid rain will bring together scientists, policy experts and government officials here on October 16 to celebrate the progress achieved and the critical work remaining to protect the Adirondack Park from acid deposition.

“We have made real progress in the fight against acid rain recently,” said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council. “The U.S. Supreme Court handed us a major victory in April. So we have a great deal to celebrate, but we also need to finish the job.”

“Additional pollution cuts will be needed to ensure the health of the Adirondacks and other ecological systems in the nation,” said Steven Hamburg, Chief Scientist of Environmental Defense Fund. “We need to recognize how far we have come since the start of the first national acid rain program in 1995, and how far we still need to go.”

New York’s Adirondack Park – the largest park in the contiguous United States -- has suffered the worst damage from acid rain of any region of the nation. Scientists estimated that 700 of the Park’s 2,800 major lakes and ponds were polluted to the point where native aquatic life could no longer survive. Mountaintop spruce and fir forests have suffered severe declines and mercury contamination has spread to fish and the predatory animals that eat them.

Recent cuts in sulfur- and nitrogen-based air pollution from coal-fired power plant smokestacks in the Midwest have led to many areas of the Adirondack Park showing signs of recovery from decades of damage. In other areas, the rate of damage has slowed, but signs of recovery are fewer.

Conference participants will discuss upcoming opportunities for achieving additional pollution reductions. They will explore the establishment of science-based benchmarks for the Adirondacks, called “critical loads,” which would indicate whether ecological protections are being achieved. And they will discuss other options for accelerating recovery in our forests and waters.

The conference is scheduled for Thursday, October 16 at the Saratoga Springs City Center, adjoining the Hilton Hotel, beginning at 9 a.m.

Slated to appear at the conference to discuss recent research, legal action and regulatory advances are:

o Dr. Charles Driscoll, Environmental Engineering Professor at Syracuse University;

o Lem Srolovic, Environmental Protection Bureau Chief at NYS Attorney General's Office;

o Judith Enck, Regional Director for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;

o Jared Snyder, Asst. Commsr., Division of Air Resources, Climate Change and Energy, NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation

o Peter Iwanowicz, Executive Director of Environmental Advocates of New York; and,

o Steven Hamburg, Chief Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund.

Signs of Recovery
In recent years, some Adirondack lakes have been restocked with fish after acidity in the water had subsided. Those waters are now producing trophy trout again, including the current state record for brook trout (6 lbs, 22.5 in; May 2013; Silver Lake). But not all waters are recovering so quickly. Plus, both soils and forests are expected to take longer than lakes and rivers to regain their chemical balance.

It is unclear whether pollution cuts alone will allow all waters, soils and forests to regain their pre-acid-rain vitality. Some damage is irreversible, such as the loss of several strains of native brook trout that were wiped out entirely.

The overall goal of the conference is to explore solutions that will return the Adirondack Park’s water and soil chemistry to normal, making it possible for surviving native plants and animals to repopulate their former homes.

There are several opportunities on the horizon for additional pollution reductions.

Clean Power Plan
In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy announced a Clean Power Plan that requires power plants nationwide to carry out a 30-percent cut in total carbon emissions by 2030. Power companies will be able to choose how to achieve those emissions reductions. The EPA predicts the emissions improvements needed to cut carbon pollution will also result in an additional 25-percent cut in acid rain causing sulfur- and nitrogen-based pollution.

Ozone Standards, Regional Reductions in Oxides of Nitrogen
EPA is scheduled to propose a new national health-based air quality standard for ground-level ozone by December 1, 2014 that reflects current medical science. A bipartisan coalition of states has petitioned EPA to reduce the oxides of nitrogen discharged from coal-fired power plants across the Eastern United States. These reductions would help achieve the health-based standard for ground-level ozone and advance the recovery of the Adirondack Park forests and lakes.

Secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards to Protect Forests and Lakes
In March 2012, EPA declined to establish national standards to protect against environmental damage due to emissions of sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen stating that it did not have adequate information. EPA’s statutorily established Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee had recommended the development of a multi-pollutant standard to protect against acid deposition of SO2 and NOx and to protect lakes, streams, fish and wildlife. Establishing well-designed secondary standards would help protect the Adirondacks and other vital ecological systems from air pollution.

Critical Loads
Leading scientists have recommended the establishment of “critical loads” to provide a rigorous science-based benchmark for evaluating whether the Adirondacks are adequately protected from air pollution. State policy makers have adequate information now to adopt a science-based “critical loads” for the Adirondacks.

Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF Voices, Twitter and Facebook

The Adirondack Council is privately funded, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of New York’s six-million-acre Adirondack Park. The Council envisions an Adirondack Park comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by working forests and farms, and vibrant rural communities. The Council carries out its mission and vision through research, education, advocacy and legal action. Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.
       

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