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Post date: October 26 1999

New York Petitions Epa To Reduce Acid Rain Damage

Attorney General Spitzer and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner John Cahill opened a new front in New York's ongoing battle against acid rain by filing a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency to establish federal regulations requiring further reductions in air pollution.

"We are fully committed to using every tool available to reduce the ravages of acid rain," said Spitzer. "This action will help reduce the emissions that not only cause acid rain but also harm aquatic life in Long Island Sound by contributing to oxygen deprivation in the water and intensify regional haze that mars vistas in our national parks and recreational areas."

Commissioner Cahill said: "Acid rain is the single most destructive air pollution problem facing New York. Without appropriate federal action it will continue to destroy forests and water bodies and degrade buildings and structures in New York and elsewhere. EPA has the legal authority to establish air quality standards that address the interstate transportation of pollutants that cause acid rain. We are asking them to exercise that authority to stop the continuing destruction of our resources."

The Environmental Protection Agency has taken steps to reduce the health impacts of air pollution. However, the federal Clean Air Act also provides the EPA an opportunity to develop new standards designed to reduce the impacts of acid rain not only on public health, but also on the natural resources of the nation such as lakes, forests, and fish populations.

New York's petition specifically calls on the EPA to establish secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards that would require additional reductions in the air pollutants most associated with acid rain -- nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and fine particulate matter.

Spitzer and Cahill called on the federal government to take action because air pollution crosses state boundaries and the damage caused by acid rain affects many states.

While the Adirondack Mountains of New York are often portrayed as a region suffering especially acute acid rain damage, there is now evidence that acid rain has harmful impacts in such broadly diverse locations as New England, Virginia, Tennessee, California and Colorado.

A major federal study published in 1996 concluded that without additional reductions in air pollution, the number of acidic lakes in the Adirondacks -- now estimated at 17 percent -- is projected to increase by almost 40 percent by 2040.

New York's petition to the EPA follows several recent developments in the state's continuing battle against acid rain and smog:

  • On September 15, Spitzer notified 17 coal-fired power plants in the Midwest of pending legal action seeking sharp reductions in their acid rain-causing smokestack emissions.
  • On October 12, Spitzer notified eight New York power plants that he is investigating them for possible air pollution violations.
  • On October 14, Gov. George Pataki announced new regulations requiring dramatic emission reductions from New York power plants.

New York was joined by Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island in filing the petition seeking acid rain relief from the EPA.