Press Releases

EPA to Gut Major Safeguard in Clean Air Act, Increase Acid Rain Here

NY Needs This Rule to Defend Itself from Midwest Coal-Fired Smokestacks

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. -- The Adirondack Council today objected to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to weaken clean air regulations that protect New York from smog and acid rain caused by coal-fired power plants and industrial plants in the Midwest.

“The New Source Review rule that the EPA wants to destroy has been a vital safeguard for New York and New England in our struggle to overcome acid rain and smog from the coal-fired smokestacks of the Midwest,” said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council. "The EPA should leave the rule alone.”

“From the 1950s to the 1980s, Midwest smokestacks wiped out the native fish and aquatic plants in a quarter of all lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks, while sickening and killing thousands of Americans with lung diseases,” Janeway said. “Since then, New Source Review has helped us to compel the cleanup of roughly 80 percent of those pollutants. Our forests, lakes and wildlife are finally recovering. Fewer people are getting sick and our air is cleaner. Now the Trump administration wants to erase that progress, and turn back the clock to the bad old days.”

New Source Review is a part of the Clean Air Act that requires power plants to install modern pollution controls when they significantly modify or expand an existing plant, or build a new facility. The rule was needed because Congress exempted hundreds of the nation’s oldest, dirtiest power plants from modern emissions standards in 1990, reasoning that they would wear out and close soon. They did not.

Companies that wanted to prolong the lifespan of older plants, or run them for longer periods of time each day -- thus causing more pollution – were required to comply with tougher emissions standards and by installing new controls.

“The Bush administration attempted to look the other way while the owners of dozens of the Midwest’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants rebuilt them a little at a time,” Janeway said. “New York attorneys general started taking the polluters to court over this violation of the act, and winning. 

“Rather than face court-imposed remedies, the power plants one-by-one settled the cases by signing agreements to comply with the law and install pollution controls,” Janeway explained.  “There are still some very old, dirty plants out there that need cleanup, or should close. The Trump administration wants to take away our best self-defense tool and leave us at the mercy of Midwest polluters.”

Under the revised rule, power plants would still have to get New Source Review permits for “net increases” in pollution. The prior rule said any increases would require new controls. The EPA’s new rule also changes the way pollution increases are calculated. The EPA’s new “calculator” would count all decreases in pollution arising from changes in the plant, but only some of the increases in pollution. 

“Changing your method for counting pollution doesn’t change the impact on people and the forests, soils and waters of the Adirondack Park and the rest of the Northeast,” Janeway said.  “Using creative math won’t stop this pollution from killing fish, trees and people, or from spreading mercury contamination throughout our food chain. This rule is good for coal companies and power plants, but no one else.”

The EPA submitted the modified rule on August 1 for publication in the Federal Register.

The EPA will accept comments on the proposal for 60 days after it is officially published in the register. It will then analyze those comments and respond to them before the proposal becomes final.

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 a Park with clean water and clean air, comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by farms and working forests, as well as vibrant communities. 

The Adirondack Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action to ensure the legacy of the Adirondack Park is safeguarded for future generations.  Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.

For more information:

John Sheehan, Director of Communications, 518-441-1340

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, August 2, 2019

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