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U.S. Supreme Court Delay of Clean Power Plan Could Harm the Adirondack Park

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Thursday, February 11, 2016

U.S. Supreme Court Delay of Clean Power Plan Could Harm the Adirondack Park 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Adirondack Council today said it is disappointed that a divided U.S. Supreme Court has imperiled the future of the Adirondack Park by stalling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The nation’s highest court on Tuesday issued an injunction that delays implementation of the plan’s greenhouse-gas regulations for perhaps a year. The EPA’s plan must wait until after a legal challenge in a lower court, as well as an expected appeal to the Supreme Court, are decided.

“A lengthy delay in the compliance deadlines for the Clean Power Plan is bad news for the Adirondack Park,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “Our ski areas and our winter carnivals are taking a beating from recent warm winters. That hurts the local economy. Most of our towns are on the shores of lakes and rivers. Flooding has been a significant problem and remains a major concern for the future.

“The Adirondack wilderness isn’t faring any better,” he said. “Climate change threatens the viability of cold-water fisheries, especially trout in rivers and streams. Some of the park’s wildlife habitat is melting away northward, along with the colder weather.

“Without significant cuts in greenhouse gases, the Adirondack climate is expected to resemble that of Richmond, Virginia by the end of the century,” Janeway explained. “That would make the Adirondack Park very different from the park we all know and love today.”

The Clean Power Plan is the national program for curbing climate-changing carbon emissions from power plants. In order to achieve its goals, most power plants are expected to stop burning coal. In addition to slowing the rate of climate change, that would help curb acid rain in the Adirondacks and reduce smog in New York’s cities.

Last year, coal producers filed a complaint with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, asking the court to overturn the Clean Power Plan. Plaintiffs also asked the appeals court to delay the compliance deadlines, saying they would harm the coal business. The appeals court ruled that no delay was warranted. Plaintiffs appealed that refusal to the Supreme Court, which granted the stay.

Voting in favor of the delay were Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy. Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg voted against the stay.

That means the rule is suspended while the Court of Appeals hears the case and rules on its merits, and will remain suspended if the loser appeals that final decision to the Supreme Court. Both sides said they would appeal a loss in the appeals court.

The appeals court is slated to hear oral arguments in June. It is not expected to reach a verdict until the fall, so the rule will remain suspended through November’s Presidential Election. Consequently, the next president will decide whether the EPA will defend and continue to implement the plan.

The Clean Power Plan is designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32 percent by 2030 (based on 2005 emissions levels), in an effort to curb climate change. EPA proposed the rule using its authority to protect public health under the Clean Air Act, after Congress refused to take action to curb carbon emissions.

Climate change threatens the Adirondack Park’s water quality, wildlife, trout fisheries, winter sports and flood-prone communities. The Adirondack Park is the transition zone between the temperate, deciduous forests (oak, maple, beech) of the Appalachians and the boreal forests (spruce and fir) of Canada. That transition zone is expected to shift north as the climate warms.

The Clean Power Plan is modeled after the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, in which New York and eight other states are reducing carbon emissions from power plants. California also has a mandatory carbon reduction program.

The EPA said it had anticipated some delays due to legal challenges to the rule, and tried to work them into its implementation schedule for the Clean Power Plan. States are not required to file final compliance plans for carbon reductions until 2018. The first round of reductions is due in 2022.

The emissions reductions needed to comply with the Clean Power Plan will require power plants to improve the fuels and equipment used to create electricity, which will have the side benefit of helping to curb the emissions that cause acid rain and smog.

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 an Adirondack Park comprised of large, core Wilderness areas, surrounded by working forests and farms and vibrant local communities.

The Adirondack Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action. Council members live in all 50 United States.

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