Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Let’s talk about bats, EPA and more

coffee and conversation eventThis Friday, the Explorer is hosting an online discussion with me and other Explorer reporters. Join us, if you can. Click here to sign up, and feel free to share with a friend.

There’s plenty we can talk about. For now, I wanted to share two recent stories, one on the Trump administration and the other on bats:

On the last full day of the Trump presidency, the administration’s plan to deal with greenhouse gas emissions, known as the Affordable Clean Energy rule, was struck down by a court for “prolonging public exposure to ongoing harms from pollutants.”

Basically, the court found, the Trump administration said the rule was to try to prevent climate change but in fact looked the other way.

That means after four years where the Trump administration looked to undo environmental rules put in place by the Obama administration, we’re in some ways back to where we started, since much of the Trump administration’s regulatory agenda was tied up in court or can be undone by the incoming Biden administration.

That’s the subject of my latest online story: As Trump administration winds down, Adirondack environmentalists breathe easier.

“The Trump administration didn’t do as much harm to the park as it tried to do,” Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan told me.

But at the same time acid rain didn’t return locally, as some feared, the global concentration of greenhouse gases continued to rise and NASA just reported 2020 tied for the warmest year on record.

That means, in important ways, the rules may have kept changing to no end, but that allowed the climate to continue to change.

“We’ve lost four invaluable years on the need to drive down carbon emissions and every year of delay means the cuts are going to have to be steeper in the future,” said Judith Enck, the former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office in New York under President Barack Obama.


While bats have a loathsome reputation as nighttime terrors, in Moriah, I found a cave full of them that were unexpectedly at risk from a clean energy project. Here’s my story, on Bats vs. Batteries:

In the five years before the iron mine closed for good in 1930, miners hauled 400,000 tons of the world’s finest ore out of Barton Hill. When they left to mine in other Adirondack mountains nearby, Barton Hill’s gutted innards went quiet, got dark and filled with bats.

Tens of thousands of bats.

The conditions inside the closed mine, its long passages still flowing with air, were perfect for hibernating bats, which need a safe place to hang helpless through long Adirondack winters. Even when a strange fungus crept across the ocean and began killing most of New York’s bats, the bats in the Barton Hill Mine fared better than most.

The old mine, in the Town of Moriah near the shores of Lake Champlain, is now one of the most important refuges for bats in North America. The Barton Hill hibernaculum, as it’s known, is a winter home to some 50,000 bats, including one of the largest populations of endangered Indiana bats outside of the Midwest. There are more bats in the mine than almost anywhere else in the Northeast.

They may now all be in peril


Editor’s note: This first appeared in Ry’s “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Ry is a reporter who covered water-quality issues for the Explorer.


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