Press Releases

Trump's Proposed Carbon Rules Would Delay Acid Rain Recovery

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. – The Adirondack Park’s largest environmental organization today said the Trump administration’s proposed replacement for the Obama-Era Clean Power Plan won’t protect the Adirondack Park from a rapidly warming climate and will delay the park’s recovery from decades of acid rain.

The Clean Power Plan would have required 32 percent cuts in carbon dioxide from power plants by 2030. The plan proposed by the Trump administration on Tuesday contains a less than 1.5 percent in cuts in carbon or other pollutants.

“The Trump plan wouldn’t protect the Adirondacks from climate change or from acid rain he way the Clean Power Plan would have,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “That means danger for Adirondack Park’s trout and salmon, which need cold water. It’s bad for the moose, fishers, bobcats and spruce grouse that populate our unique, low-elevation boreal forests. It means catastrophic floods and loss of winter outdoor sports for the Park’s residents, businesses and visitors.

“In terms of acid rain, it means we wouldn’t see the expected side-benefit of a 10- to 12-percent cut in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, the air pollutants that cause acid rain,” Janeway said. “Cleaning up carbon would require some of the nation’s dirtiest power plants to switch to cleaner fuels or close. Every kilowatt of coal power replaced by something cleaner helps the Adirondacks to recover from acid rain.

Due to pollution cuts ordered by EPA since 1995, some Adirondack lakes and ponds are recovering from acid rain damage. Other lakes will take centuries to regain their health at current emissions rates, scientists estimate. The Clean Power Plan would have sped up that that recovery, Janeway said.

The Clean Power Plan would also have reduced airborne soot and smog pollution. By contrast, the proposal released Tuesday contains no measureable limits or compliance deadlines, Janeway noted.  

The proposed plan requires only that states consider establishing standards based on a scientifically questionable set of efficiency adjustments at power plants. The EPA’s own analysis tallies the environmental and public health benefits that would be lost under the proposed rule, compared to the Clean Power Plan.

Under the heading “Forgone SO2 Health Co-Benefits,” the EPA describes some of the public health hazards the new rule won’t prevent, although the Clean Power Plan would:

Following an extensive evaluation of health evidence from epidemiologic and laboratory studies, the Integrated Science Assessment for Oxides of Sulfur —Health Criteria (SO2 ISA) concluded that there is a causal relationship between respiratory health effects and short-term exposure to SO2 (U.S. EPA 2008c) ... Based on our review of this information, we identified three short-term morbidity endpoints that the SO2 ISA identified as a “causal relationship”: asthma exacerbation, respiratory-related emergency department visits, and respiratory-related hospitalizations.

Source: U.S. EPA Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Proposed Emission Guidelines for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Existing Electric Utility Generating Units; Revisions to Emission Guideline Implementing Regulations; Revisions to New Source Review Program, pp. 4-51; August 21, 2018.

"Short-term morbidity endpoints’ mean the EPA expects more people to die prematurely from breathing sulfur dioxide pollution under the new rule than would have under the Clean Power Plan they are repealing,” Janeway said. “That’s a pretty casual way to talk about letting people die from preventable diseases. The report declines to estimate how many will die. This is not good public policy."

“You don’t have to look much farther in the same assessment to see that the EPA expects more forests to die,” Janeway said, “More fish and lakes would be poisoned, more of our buildings and monuments would be eroded and destroyed.”

The Trump administration is also proposing changes to the New Source Review portion of the Clean Air Act. Among other things, NSR requires antiquated power plants that were exempted from new-plant standards to employ modern emissions controls if their owners rebuild them.

In addition, Janeway noted that the Trump administration is refusing to act on petitions from New York, Connecticut and Maryland who asked EPA for relief from pollution that causes smog and acid rain. Those states, the Adirondack Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and others recently won lawsuits compelling the EPA to take action by this fall.

They had asked the EPA to order the 36 dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the nation to turn on already-installed pollution control devices that would prevent illness and premature deaths in the Northeast.  These electrostatic precipitators would reduce nitrogen-based air pollution that causes smog (ground-level ozone) and acid rain during summer months. Smog formation requires hot weather, so the controls are seasonal.  In addition to smog, the controls would reduce the total amount of acid rain falling on Adirondack forests and waters.

Founded in 1975, 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
518-441-1340 cell
518-432-1770 office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, August 22, 2018

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