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Post date: October 15 1999

New York's Acid Rain Fight Gains International Momentum

Attorney General Spitzer today hailed the interest shown by Toronto health and environmental officials to support his pending lawsuit against 17 coal-fired power plants in the American Midwest for their smokestack emissions that cause smog and acid rain devestation.

"We're very pleased that there is a growing interest in Toronto in working with us to reduce air pollution from Midwestern power plants," said Spitzer. "Toronto can bring to our effort not only the valuable perspective of a major city in a different country but also additional medical and scientific research. Everyone down-wind of the Midwestern power plants -- whether they live in Canada or the United States -- should be interested in this issue because acid rain and smog-causing emissions respect no boundaries and adversely affect everyone's environment and health."

Spitzer's comments came as Toronto officials hosted a meeting to discuss how Canada's largest city might participate in New York's legal action against a common environmental threat -- harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants in the American Midwest.

Dr. Sheela Basrur, Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto, said: "As in New York and the New England states, Toronto is down-wind from power plants in the American Midwest and we also suffer from smog and acid rain caused by their smokestack pollution. We would benefit greatly if Mr. Spitzer succeeds in his planned lawsuits against Midwestern power plants."

"Smog-related illnesses kill over 400 people a year in Toronto alone," said Jack Layton, Vice-Chairman of Toronto Hydro and chairman of Toronto's Environmental Task Force. "A significant part of this pollution comes from the coal-fired power plants in the Midwest United States. We should do everything we can to support our neighbors in New York in their lawsuit against this pollution. We are also fighting to close our coal-fired plants in Ontario."

Basrur and Layton said that about half of the smog which affects Toronto originates in coal-fired power plants in the American Midwest.

In mid-September, Spitzer announced his intention to sue 17 Midwestern power plants, whose emissions are linked to acid rain damage, smog and public health hazards in New York, for violating the federal Clean Air Act. Spitzer intends to file the lawsuits after the required 60-day notification period to the power plants expires in mid-November.

Power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from the plants in Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky drift hundreds of miles on prevailing winds before falling as acid rain or acid snow over northeastern states and provinces, including New York and Ontario. These emissions also contribute to urban smog and particulate pollution, both linked to respiratory diseases.

In addition to his ongoing legal actions against the federal government seeking stricter rules reducing air pollution, Spitzer is, in these utility cases, directly challenging the power plants that produce the emissions.

Spitzer was represented at the Toronto meeting by Peter Lehner, chief of the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau, and by Eugene Kelly, an Assistant Attorney General in the Environmental Protection Bureau.

Lehner noted that Toronto and Ontario, as well as other affected communities, can use their influence as purchasers of power and as important leaders of public opinion to assist the effort to reduce air pollution from coal-fired power plants.