Thursday, October 12, 2017

Protect: Repeal of Clean Power Plan Enormous Step Backwards

protect the adirondacksWhat follows is a statement sent to the press by Protect the Adirondacks:

Protect the Adirondacks opposes the new plan by the Trump Administration and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to abandon the Clean Power Plan set up by the Obama Administration. This is an enormous set back for US policy on climate change and will have negative impacts in the Adirondacks as progress on significant reductions in acid rain over the past 20 years may be lost. The US EPA announced on October 9, 2017 that is was starting the process to take formal steps to officially repeal the Clean Power Plan.

The Obama Administration Clean Power Plan called for greenhouse gas emission reductions for over 1,000 existing power plants in the US. It was seen as a major landmark in environmental history because it was the first national C02 reduction program. The Clean Power Plan was similar in scope to the creation of the national Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Wilderness Act and Endangered Species Act. EPA estimated that 83% of greenhouse gas emissions are from carbon dioxide (C02) released into the atmosphere. As a group these 1,000 coal-fired power plants are the single largest sources of C02 pollution in the U.S., producing nearly 25%. The Clean Power Plan was expected to produce a 20% reduction in C02 emissions from these power plants by 2020 and 30% by 2030 (based on 2005 levels). Other major C02 reductions were achieved by Obama actions to increase fuel efficiency and tailpipe emission standards on automobiles by raising mileage rates from an average of 36 miles per gallon to over 54 by 2025. The Trump Administration announced plans in March to rollback the automobile standards.

“The spate of massive hurricanes, floods, and wild fires we’ve seen in the past month is the new normal. These catastrophes are a pretty clear message from planet Earth that we need to make changes, and make them fast, to reduce carbon pollution and stop warming trends. The Trump Administration and EPA are ignoring reality and pretending that we can continue with the status quo, which is clearly unsustainable. This is an exceedingly poor decision,” said Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks.

According to the EPA these are the basic facts. The making of electricity produces 32% of C02 emissions in the U.S. followed by the transportation sector at 28%, industry at 20%, commercial/residential at 10% and agriculture at 10%. The biggest fuel source used for the production of electricity is coal, which while it supplies 39% of electricity made, it produces 75% of CO2 emissions from the electricity sector. About 29% of electricity in 2012 was generated using natural gas, which has grown by the hydro-fracking boom, followed by 20% from nuclear and 12% from renewables. Coal-fired power plants are the single biggest “stationary source” of C02 pollution emissions as they produce fully 25% of U.S. C02 pollution.

A key component of the Clean Power Plan is that each state was required to develop a C02 reduction plan. If a state refused to develop such a plan, then the EPA would draft a plan for them. A key part of the Clean Power Plan was new reduction levels set by the EPA, which power plants could meet using a new cap-and-trade program for carbon pollution credits, similar to the longstanding and successful program for acid rain pollutants sulfur dioxide (S02) and Nitrogen Oxide (S0x).

“The cap-and-trade program has been a national success story since it was started in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments signed by President George H.W. Bush. The Clean Power Plan incorporated the same cap-and-trade approach to achieving reductions in pollution using free market principles of supply and demand. Now, with the absence of federal leadership on carbon reduction, the best hope is to look towards state action from places like California and New York,” said Peter Bauer.

Protect the Adirondacks, Inc. (PROTECT) is a privately funded, IRS-approved not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park in northern New York. PROTECT was formed through the merger of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks and the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks in 2009. PROTECT pursues its mission to protect the Adirondack Park and defend the public “forever wild” Forest Preserve through citizen advocacy, grassroots organizing, education, research, and legal action. PROTECT is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. PROTECT maintains an office in Lake George. For more information see

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20 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    I agree this is a bad idea. But one thing that isn’t mentioned here is that the courts have already stopped the implementation of this. This is an opportunity for the legislative bodies to do something in a way that meets constitutional muster.

  2. Jim S. says:

    The rest of the world is aggressively moving away from fossil fuel technology and our president has other ideas.

    • Boreas says:

      I’m afraid this actions is just the tip of the iceberg.

    • wbb says:

      Is China part of “the rest of the world”

      Just asking for a friend.

      • Pete Nelson says:

        Tell your friend yes:

        China is a mixed bag, as are many other countries. But more and more they see the fossil fuel handwriting on the wall.

        • Paul says:

          You also gotta deal with the issue of emission from the mining and burning that is required to get the rare earth materials we need to make things like batteries and wind turbines. China controls 90% of the market. We basically buy all the rare earth materials we need from China. Just like we were too dependent on the middle east for oil we gotta deal with this issue as we transition. The US has one mine for these materials in CA and we sold that to a Chinese company!

          It’s a nasty process with huge environmental impacts:

          I think they recently found a new source in Afghanistan! Figures!

          • Boreas says:

            Indeed. Which is why the world needs to cut back on emissions wherever it can, and where it can’t, look at alternative processes. We’ll never get emissions to zero, but there is a lot of low-hanging fruit out there that can be picked.

            • Paul says:

              One place that it can, and fast, is with nuclear power. We produce 20% of our power that way now w/o any carbon emissions. (France produces 75% – they have probably complied with these agreement decades ago) Sure there are waste and safety issues. But it’s compatible with the grid we already have a huge cost savings. The other alternatives are just too long in the making. It’s too late for them if we are really serious. We should be plugging the EVs into a zero emission plug not a coal burning electricity plug.

              • Boreas says:

                Nobody seems to be overly concerned about disposing of nuclear waste from our Navy. If you can attach guns and missiles to a floating reactor that’s fine. Nuclear warheads, no problem. Reduce CO2 emissions and dependence on fossil fuels – not a chance!

                • Paul says:

                  These ships are a great example of technology in action. No carbon emission they make all their own power, purify their own fresh water from the sea via desalination. Again there are waste issues we have to figure out but we can deal with that. Why can’t we get everybody into the 21st century? Nimitz class run for 20 years before they need to re-fuel. The newer ones are probably even better. A relative of mine who works as a telecommuter from the Adirondacks works on these systems. These small reactors are relatively safe and quite futuristic how come we don’t use this technology to fuel a neighborhood with zero emissions and little safety issues?

    • Pass says:

      Well if there is a consensus here in the US electorate (I think there is) then this is a good opportunity to make a move like this irrelevant. Pass legislation.

      • JohnL says:

        Right on Pass. Anything as far reaching economically as the Obama designed plan is (was) should NOT be mandated by an unelected body (EPA) with skin in the game. If it’s as popular as everyone thinks it is, there should be no problem getting it, or something like it, done the right way. Legislatively.

  3. John Sheehan says:

    The carbon reductions that are required by the Clean Power Plan would have induced another 10 to 12 percent drop in the acid rain falling on the Adirondacks too. Many (not all) coal-fired power plants would close and be replaced by cleaner energy sources in order to meet the carbon standards. These are the oldest, dirtiest and least efficient power sources in the nation, so replacing them will be good for the economy too. Less coal means less sulfur- and nitrogen-based air pollution as well, so less acid rain, soot and smog. Less coal also means less mercury contamination in fish and the wildlife that eats fish.

    • Boreas says:


    • Boreas says:

      If coal plants find it too expensive to scrub their emissions, it would at least be nice of them to drop their smokestacks from 200+ feet to 40 feet or so. Then they could learn about emissions in real time.

    • Paul says:

      John, What is the current level of acid rain falling in the Adirondacks? My older son asked me earlier today what that was. We have one of what is supposed to be the “cleanest” coal burning power plants here in the finger lakes. It is closing down and will not be converted to gas as first suggested or solar as the next option. Its just shutting down. Not because of this but because of other market factors.

      • Boreas says:


        More stats are available online. This is from Whiteface.
        From ALSC for 2015

        Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation

        Whiteface 2015 SUMMARY STATS
        Summary statistics calculated using ‘VALID’ data only.

        Parameter UNITS COUNT Min Max Mean Std. Dev.
        Cloud Samples 68
        Volume mL 66 32.000 10995.000 2490.045 2439.650
        LWC g m-3 68 0.027 3.233 0.612 0.740
        SO4 µeq L-1 68 2.272 493.375 85.034 109.689
        NO3 µeq L-1 68 1.668 484.345 68.689 102.926
        Cl µeq L-1 68 0.160 64.869 5.620 10.500
        Ca µeq L-1 68 0.333 302.514 35.978 56.546
        Mg µeq L-1 68 0.217 64.294 10.515 13.062
        Na µeq L-1 68 -0.026 65.554 4.597 10.078
        K µeq L-1 68 -0.003 0.411 0.086 0.103
        NH4 µeq L-1 68 0.929 686.413 116.341 154.938
        TOC µMoles L-1 66 42.562 2394.422 429.292 440.558
        SCONDUCT µS cm-1 65 2.238 145.462 30.621 35.228
        LABpH 68 3.668 6.335 5.009 0.603
        H µeq L-1 68 0.462 214.783 24.192 38.644

      • Boreas says:

        Contrast with their data from 2001:

        Whiteface 2001_SUMMARY_STATS
        version: WFC_2001

        Paramater Units Count Min Max Mean Std. Dev.
        Cloud Samples 371
        Volume mL 371 46.00 909.00 411.95 269.15
        LWC g m-3 301 0.01 0.97 0.52 0.24
        SO42- µeq L-1 371 0.96 2626.07 314.60 454.85
        NO3- µeq L-1 371 0.17 1710.32 126.36 207.36
        NO2- µeq L-1 369 0.00 15.65 1.43 2.46
        Cl- µeq L-1 367 0.28 101.97 9.80 14.47
        Ca2+ µeq L-1 363 0.00 275.45 21.37 33.05
        Mg2+ µeq L-1 362 0.04 115.20 6.54 12.07
        Na+ µeq L-1 366 0.15 60.90 3.55 7.50
        K+ µeq L-1 322 0.04 14.32 1.57 2.43
        NH4 µeq L-1 371 0.17 1519.17 171.56 240.91
        SCONDUCT µS cm-1 300 1.14 990.00 93.23 128.48
        LABpH 371 2.60 5.74 –— –—
        H+ µeq L-1 371 1.84 2535.13 239.71 372.60


      • Boreas says:


        So if you look at the difference between 2001 and 2015, the pH values have increased roughly 1 point from pH 4 to pH 5, which is a 10-fold decrease in acidity (pH is a logarithmic scale). Also considerable drops in other poisonous emissions over that time.

        Thanks to ALSC for their online data.

        • Boreas says:

          But keep in mind this is CLOUD data taken at only one point – Whiteface Mtn.. This is NOT stream/lake/soil data, which is also available online. These data vary significantly based on watershed, soils, vegetation, buffering capacity, etc..

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