Monday, March 9, 2009

Adk Council Slams Paterson’s Adirondack Record

Here is a statement from the Adirondack Council’s Executive Director Brian L. Houseal on what he calls Gov. David Paterson’s “proposed give-away to polluters” under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). My favorite part is when Houseal calls Paterson out on his Adirondack record (which makes George Pataki look like a saint) – “the Paterson Administration has displayed unexpected hostility toward environmental initiatives and Adirondack issues.” Stand back.

The Adirondack Council strongly objects to Governor David Paterson’s decision to give away pollution rights to polluters participating in compliance with the 10-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Not only is the decision bad for the environment, it is also bad for the economy.

The decision is especially disappointing in light of President Barack Obama’s pledge to create a national cap-and-trade program similar to RGGI to control carbon dioxide emissions nationwide. It would be irresponsible to do anything to weaken the prototype program at this crucial moment.

Even worse, every carbon allowance given away to polluters by the Governor means less money for the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority’s renewable energy and energy-conservation programs. Currently, NYSERDA receives all proceeds from allowances sold to New York power plants.

We do not understand why the Governor would risk both environmental degradation and the integrity of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s rulemaking authority by unilaterally deciding to change the regulations after a secret meeting with a power-industry lobbyist. DEC arrived at these regulations after years of debate and after reviewing mountains of public comments. To undo all of that on a whim is bad public policy.

We remind the Governor that it was his administration, not a previous one, which accepted this public input and created the current rules. In fact, the Governor’s team took so long in making its decisions that New York was unable to participate in the first RGGI auction in September 2008. The state had to wait until the December 2008 auction to sell its allowances. Now, less than three months later, the Governor wants to weaken the program.

This announcement comes at a time when the Paterson Administration has displayed unexpected hostility toward environmental initiatives and Adirondack issues, including:

Massive cuts to, and raids on, the money held in trust for major environmental projects in the Environmental Protection Fund,

The Governor’s proposal to repeal an 1886 law requiring the state to pay full property taxes to local governments and school districts on Adirondack Forest Preserve and other state lands (undermining support for public lands),

DEC’s February decision to shut down four Adirondack Park campgrounds this summer, to save money,

The Governor’s failure to appoint an Executive Director for the Adirondack Park Agency, which oversees private land-use in the Park,

His continuing refusal to issue completed regulations for backyard trash-burning barrels, all-terrain vehicle use on public lands and snowmobiling on public lands.

The Adirondack Council is also concerned about the impact of this decision on those who have already acquired carbon dioxide allowances through the first two RGGI auctions. That group of New Yorkers includes the Adirondack Council, which bought and owns 4,000 RGGI carbon allowances. While we intend to retire those allowances so they cannot be used by anyone, there are others in New York who bought them as investments and securities. Giving away more allowances to power companies will alter the value of the remaining allowances.

More importantly, the Adirondack Park is likely to see some of the worst ecological damage in the nation as a result of climate change. The Adirondack Park contains protected forests, plants and animal species that simply don’t exist anywhere else in New York. Some forests, such as the low-elevation boreal forests of the northwestern Adirondacks, are more typical of the sub-arctic zones of central Canada and the Siberian taiga. They will die away with only a few degrees’ rise in average annual temperatures.

In closing, we have little sympathy for any power-supplier that signed a decades-long contract with a utility company without considering the possibility that air pollution standards might change before the contract expired. If Indeck Energy Services, which operates a steam co-generation plant inside the Adirondack Park (in Corinth) can’t remain profitable with a 20-year (or longer) guaranteed customer like Consolidated Edison, then no amount of government intervention is likely to help much. We suggest that the Governor urge the company to re-examine its own internal business decisions and management before attempting to weaken such a worthwhile, multi-state, cooperative environmental program.


Ouch.

Yes, that’s Teddy Roosevelt lurking over Paterson in an AP photo.

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