Press Releases

Adirondack Groups Thrilled that U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear Appeal of 2012 Ruling that Struck Down Key Acid Rain Regulation

For more information:
Neil Woodworth, Adirondack Mountain Club
518-449-3870 (ofc.); 518-669-0128 (cell)
John F. Sheehan, Adirondack Council
518-432-1770 (ofc); 518-441-1340 (cell)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Monday, June 24, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – New York’s leading advocates in the fight against acid rain today praised the Obama Administration for appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court a lower court decision that threw out the administration’s plan for combating air pollution that crosses state lines. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to hear the case.

“We called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to appeal this decision when it was handed down last summer, so we are pleased that the EPA has taken this step and thrilled that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “The future of the Adirondack Park – the largest park in the contiguous United States – rests on the EPA’s ability to regulate air pollution crossing state lines. Most of the acid rain falling on the Adirondack Park comes from smokestacks in the Midwest and beyond, where New York is powerless to protect itself. We need the federal government to step in.”

The EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule was thrown out by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in August 2012, in a split decision.

The rule would have required deep cuts in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution from electric power plants east of the Rocky Mountains whose emissions cause pollution in neighboring states. Two of three judges said the EPA exceeded its authority under the Clean Air Act when it determined how deeply upwind states would have to cut their power plant emissions.

In a 26-page dissenting opinion, a third judge stated that the EPA was within its authority and that its actions would protect public health as Congress had intended. EPA said at the time it would proceed with a re-write of the rules, but would also consider appealing the decision.

The Adirondack Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, and several other groups called on the Obama Administration to do both.

“The Clean Air Act gives the EPA the authority to curb emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide air pollution, purely in an effort to protect public health,” said Janeway. “Further, we believe the EPA has an obligation to do so. It is a fortunate coincidence that those same levels of cuts are what the Adirondack Park needs to recover from acid rain, which is caused by the same pollutants that bring us the smog and fine particulate pollution that the EPA is trying to control with this rule.”

New York’s 9,300-square-mile Adirondack Park has suffered the worst acid rain damage in the United States, with research showing that 25 percent of the park’s 2,800 large lakes and ponds were “critically acidified,” meaning at least half of their native aquatic life had been killed off. A large portion of the park’s 30,000 miles of rivers, brooks and streams have been damaged as well.

In addition, acidic conditions cause mercury contamination to spread throughout the food chain, because acid can cause changes in soil chemistry that convert mercury from a harmless, inorganic form into harmful organic mercury. There is a park-wide warning from the NYS Department of Health against eating predatory fish (pike, bass, perch, etc.) because they eat other fish and retain all of the mercury those smaller fish had eaten. Mercury contamination is expected to ease, but not until acid rain levels are reduced further.

The Adirondack Park is home to most of the wilderness and Old Growth forests remaining in the Northeast. It is also home to 130,000 year-round residents in 130 small communities, who rely on tourism and outdoor recreation to sustain the local economy. Many residents all eat local fish.

Following the recent cuts in sulfur-based and nitrogen-based air pollution that were ordered by the EPA between 1995 and 2010, many (but not all) of the park’s lakes and ponds are showing some signs of recovery. More cuts are needed to nurse the park’s remaining water bodies, forests and rivers back to health.

“The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is the solution we need to finally end the daily damage done here by air pollution drift towards us from smokestacks hundreds of miles outside New York’s borders,” Neil Woodworth, Executive Director of the Adirondack Mountain Club noted. “We are encouraged that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case.”

“We look forward to the day when acid rain is no longer killing fish and forests, no longer ruining the soil’s ability to sustain life and no longer endangering us and our neighbors with mercury contamination,” Janeway said. “The Adirondack Park is a state park, but it is a national treasure. It’s time for the federal government to treat it that way.”

Founded in 1975, the Adirondack Council is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. The Adirondack Council envisions an Adirondack Park with clean water and air and large, core wilderness areas, surrounded by working farms and forests and vibrant local communities. The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action. Adirondack Council members live in all 50 States.


On acid rain, see ACID RAIN: A Continuing National Tragedy (24 page online booklet)

See item on Page 7 of the Adirondack Council’s State of the Park Report 2012

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