It was immensely satisfying to watch EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson announce today that power-plant mercury emissions will be reduced 90 percent.
We in the Adirondacks have waited more than two decades for this. You would think limiting a toxin such as mercury, which harms the nervous systems of children exposed in the womb, would not be subject to protracted debate. But coal- and oil-fired power plants resisted the regulation shamelessly for decades. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced awards for “Clean Air Grants” to 13 New York communities, including three in the Adirondack region. The grants are hoped to assist counties, towns and villages in reducing open burning of leaves and other organic materials, educate residents about the dangers of open burning and assist with the purchasing of recycling and composting equipment.
“DEC is committed to reducing harmful air pollutants and the prevention of destructive wildfires,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a prepared statement. “In addition to releasing harmful pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde and lead, the open burning of residential organic waste such as leaves and branches, is the largest single cause of wildfires in the state.” A total of $60,000 was awarded for 13 projects statewide ranging from helping the Village of Windsor in Broome County better manage wood waste to partnering with the Dutchess County Town of Tivoli to conduct a home composting pilot project and help educate residents about safer alternatives to open burning. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides DEC with the funding for these grants.
DEC recently extended restrictions on the open burning of residential organic waste in all communities statewide, regardless of the community’s size in population.
The Clean Air Grant Program was designed to help local communities better manage residential organic waste materials and also build better community understanding of the dangers associated with open burning. Grants of up to $5,000 were awarded to the following local communities:
Town of Pinckney, Lewis County, to assist in the purchase of a commercial wood chipper to give area residents a safer option for disposing branches and other tree waste. The Town will partner with the Tug Hill Commission and Development Authority of the North County to educate residents about the availability of the chipping service, the dangers of open burning and how they can get wood chips and mulch from the program.
Town of Webb, Herkimer County, to assist in the purchase of a municipal leaf vacuum to help the community safely and efficiently remove and compost organic materials. In addition to the health and safety benefits of reducing of open burning, the Town also identifies the economic benefits of maintaining clean air and a healthy eco-system within the Adirondack Park.
Town of Boonville, Oneida County, to repair and refurbish a municipal leaf collection vacuum to reduce the possible loss of life and property that can often result from open burning and the added burden it puts on local volunteer fire companies.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the adoption of an emergency rule pertaining to the sales of outdoor wood boilers in New York. The emergency rule extends the current regulation’s sell-through date by 90 days, allowing a distributor to sell through July 14, 2011 any non-certified outdoor wood boiler models that were in the distributor’s stock as of April 14, 2011. Other than units already in stock, distributors may no longer sell any outdoor wood boilers that are not certified by DEC as meeting the emission standards set forth in the state regulation for outdoor wood boilers (Part 247).
The state outdoor wood boiler regulation was adopted on December 29, 2010 and became effective on January 28, 2011. Portions of the current regulation including stack height, setback, certification, and nuisance related guidelines remain in effect as of April 15, 2011 and include: 1. Minimum stack height of 18 feet above ground level.
2. Setback requirements:
100 feet or more to the nearest property boundary line for outdoor wood boilers with maximum thermal output ratings less than or equal to 250,000 Btu/hour.
200 feet or more to the nearest property boundary line, 300 feet or more to the nearest property boundary line of a residentially-zoned property and 1000 feet or more from a school for outdoor wood boilers with maximum thermal output ratings greater than 250,000 Btu/hour.
Setbacks may be based on distances to residences not served by an outdoor wood boiler if the boiler is located on contiguous agricultural lands larger than five acres.
Customers must make sure their setback is based upon the maximum thermal output of their outdoor wood boiler and should consider contacting the manufacturer directly for this information.
3. Distributors must provide potential customers with a copy of the regulation (Part 247) and a Notice to Buyers form. A template for the Notice to Buyers is available on the DEC website [pdf].
4. The opacity and nuisance provisions set forth in the current rule apply to all outdoor wood boilers. Potential buyers must be aware that even if the requirements of the regulation are met, there may be conditions or locations in which the use of a new outdoor wood boiler unreasonably interferes with another person’s use or enjoyment of property or even damages human health. If such a situation occurs, the owner or lessee of the new outdoor wood boiler causing the situation may be subject to sanctions that can include a requirement to remove the device at their own expense as well as any other penalty allowed by law.
For more information on the regulation and details on purchasing an outdoor wood boiler in New York State, visit the DEC website. For more details on the extension and emergency rule, visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/73788.html.
Photo: Air pollution caused by an Outdoor Wood Boiler (DEC Photo).
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new pollution standards for power plants that are being seen as a major step in reversing the contamination of Adirondack lakes, fish, and wildlife. The rules are likely to be challenged by congressional Republicans, according to a report by John M. Broder and John Collins Rudolf of The New York Times, but nonetheless appear to mark a turning point in the 40-year-long fight to reduce some of America’s worst air pollutants.
In response to a 2008 U.S. Court of Appeals ordered deadline the EPA has proposed the first-ever national standards for mercury, arsenic and other toxic air pollution from power plants. The new standards would require many power plants to install state-of-the-art pollution control technologies to cut harmful emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and gases that cause acid rain and smog. Currently, only about half of the country’s more than 400 coal-burning plants have some form of pollution control technology installed, and only a third of states have any mercury emission standards. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced late Wednesday that the Environmental Board has approved a new regulation that sets stringent performance standards for new outdoor wood boilers (OWBs) sold in the state. The regulation will go into effect 30 days after it is filed with the Secretary of State. The stricter guidelines will ensure that new OWBs burn at least 90% cleaner than older models, according to a DEC press release.
Provisions in the regulatory proposal to phase out the use of older OWBs and place restrictions on their use in the interim have been removed and will be addressed through a new public stakeholder process to develop a revised regulatory framework to address concerns of residents impacted by the operation of such units. “This is about ensuring that new outdoor wood boilers burn cleaner — not only for people who buy OWBs and their families, but also for their neighbors. It’s not unlike the switch to cleaner cars,” said Acting DEC Commissioner Peter Iwanowicz. “It’s also to ensure that OWB stacks are high enough to disperse emissions rather than having them blow directly into houses and other dwellings. That’s important for public health. Also, we have listened to the agricultural community and made appropriate exceptions for farming operations.”
The regulation approved Wednesday includes stack height requirements for new OWBs that will are expected to reduce the impact of emission plumes on neighboring property owners. In addition, new OWBs will be required to be set back a minimum of 100 feet from neighboring properties — except for OWBs used in agricultural operations, which must be at least 100 feet from neighboring homes. Both new and existing OWBs will be subject to fuel restrictions hoped to ensure that only appropriate fuels are burned.
“The new guidelines the state has set on outdoor wood boilers is a necessary step in improving the process of burning wood as a renewable energy resource and is not to stop people from burning clean wood,” said Village of Tupper Lake Mayor Mickey Demarais. “Trying to make our air cleaner and protect our residents is our responsibility and the Village supports establishing guidelines and standards on OWBs to make this happen.”
“The new regulation on OWBs is a responsible move in the right direction without being overly intrusive on the public,” said Elizabethtown Town Supervisor Noel Merrihew. “It’s a good move to put together regulations for the manufacture of the OWBs. Outside the Hamlet areas the smoke can be a problem and this assures long term environmental benefits for our state.”
The text of the final rule before the Environmental Board is available on the DEC website.
Photo: Air pollution caused by an Outdoor Wood Boiler (DEC Photo).
According to a report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Finch, Pruyn paper mill generated the most pollution of any manufacturing plant in New York last year, 31 percent more than the second heaviest polluter in the state.
The Glens Falls mill discharged some 3.8 million pounds of chemicals in 2009.
Finch’s emissions were less than 1.1 million pounds as recently as 2007, meaning that their pollution has nearly quadrupled since the long-time locally owned company was sold to a pair of outside investment groups in mid-2007. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the submission of a regulation to the state Environmental Board for consideration at its October 25 meeting that will set stringent performance standards for new outdoor wood boilers (OWBs) sold in New York State. If approved, the regulation would go into effect 30 days after its filing with the state Secretary of State. The stricter guidelines are designed to ensure that new OWBs burn at least 90% cleaner than older models. “This is a positive and necessary step in our goal to improve air quality in New York State and protect the health of our residents,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said before being fired by New York Governor David Paterson, explaining that DEC limited an earlier proposal in response to comments received during an extensive public outreach effort. “DEC staff carefully reviewed and took into account all the concerns that were expressed during the rulemaking process and has developed this regulation to ensure that new outdoor wood boilers are cleaner and that existing boilers have a reduced impact on air quality.”
The regulation before the Environmental Board also includes fuel restrictions and stack height standards for existing as well as new OWBs which will reduce the impact of their emission plumes on neighboring property owners. New OWBs will be required to be set back a minimum of 100 feet from neighboring properties. A provision in an earlier proposal to phase out the use of older OWBs has been removed and will be addressed through a new public stakeholder process to develop a revised regulatory framework to address concerns of residents impacted by the operation of such units.
The rule shortens the period when OWBs cannot be used in the Northern Heating Zone – which includes all counties north and west of Dutchess, Ulster and Sullivan counties — to the period from June 1 through August 31. The seasonal restriction for all other areas of the state will run from May 15 to September 30.
The text of the final rule before the Environmental Board is available at on the DEC website. The complete rule package will be available on the DEC website after the Environmental Board meets on October 25.
Two weeks before Ron Stafford died on June 24, 2005, the North Country’s longtime state Senator was honored by the Adirondack Council on its 30th anniversary.
I thought of Stafford when Adirondack Almanack editor John Warren decided to solicit nominations for a list of influential Adirondack leaders.
While some might argue that Stafford’s importance lies in the number of prison jobs he created in the North Country, or in the millions in state funds he brought back to the district, I would argue that he deserves to be remembered as an Adirondack conservationist.
Though conventional wisdom might say otherwise, the Adirondack Council’s award to Stafford was richly deserved. » Continue Reading.
A series of paintings of Adirondack animals and trees affected by airborne pollutants may find a home at the Adirondack Museum, in Blue Mountain Lake.
The collection, entitled “Boreal Relationships,” comprises seven watercolors by Rebecca Richman. Richman made the paintings between 2003 and 2006, and wrote narratives on how acid rain and mercury deposition affect each subject: brook trout, red-backed salamander, red spruce, Bicknell’s thrush, common loon, sugar maple and mayfly. The artist says she hopes the paintings will encourage people to think about connections between places and species—and lead to action to stop Midwestern pollutants from destroying habitats downwind in the Northeast. She has always hoped the originals could “remain together as an educational force, helping to abate the threat of acid rain to the Adirondacks, a land I truly love.” Richman lived in the Adirondacks from 2000 to 2006, much of that time working for the Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter. She now lives in Colorado, where she works as a seasonal park ranger and continues to paint. » Continue Reading.
According to a just-released U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study, scientists detected mercury contamination in every fish sampled in 291 streams across the country. About one fourth of the fish sampled were found to “contain mercury at levels exceeding the criterion for the protection of people who consume average amounts of fish, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” according to USGS. More than two-thirds of the fish exceeded the U.S. EPA level of concern for fish-eating mammals. Mercury contamination of fish, ospreys, loons, and other aquatic-feeding animals continues to be a concern in the Adirondack region where the problem is the most acute of all New York State. New evidence in the Northeast shows mercury contamination in animals that only feed on land, spreading the concern from water based ecosystems to terrestrial ones as well. » Continue Reading.
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an attempt by the Bush administration and the utility industry to reinstate a mercury-control regulation that would have allowed increased mercury pollution in the Adirondacks. According to the ADK’s Neil Woodworth, this is the “final nail in the coffin of this ill-advised regulation, which left the Adirondacks and Catskills vulnerable to continued mercury contamination.” In January 2007, ADK filed a brief with the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asserting that Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) was an illegal attempt to weaken the strict mercury emission controls set forth in the Clean Air Act. Here is a little history of the legal battle over mercury pollution from the Adirondack Mountain Club:
In February 2008, the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) won a major victory when the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia threw out the CAMR, a cap-and-trade program that allowed polluters to buy pollution credits and emit mercury without pollution controls. CAMR resulted in regional mercury “hot spots,” and two recent studies have linked coal-fired power plants to mercury hot spots in the Adirondacks and Catskills. The appeals court ruled that the EPA mercury plan conflicted with the clear language of the federal Clean Air Act, which requires each power plant to install the best technology available to reduce mercury emissions by as much as 90 percent.
The Bush administration and the utility industry appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although the Obama administration withdrew the federal government’s appeal, the industry continued to pursue the case. Today, the Supreme Court dismissed the industry’s writ of certiorari, thus upholding the appeals court’s decision in the case.
The decision means that EPA must now promulgate regulations requiring each power plant to install the most advanced pollution controls to reduce its mercury emissions. Here is more from an ADK press release:
In enacting the Clean Air Act, Congress provided for strict limits on mercury emissions through the installation of maximum achievable control technology, which Congress made applicable to all coal-burning power plants. By contrast, the EPA administrative rule challenged in this lawsuit would have delayed for two decades the elimination of airborne mercury emissions as a source of mercury toxins in the Northeast.
Furthermore, the contested rule would have allowed many of the worst polluters to buy “pollution rights,” continue to release mercury up their smokestacks and perpetuate mercury hot spots in New York and the Northeast.
The Adirondacks and Catskills are downwind of numerous coal-burning power plants, whose mercury emissions contribute significantly to mercury pollution in these regions. A 2007 independent study by the Charles Driscoll and the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation estimated that mercury emissions from U.S. coal-fired power plants are responsible for 40 percent to 65 percent of mercury deposition in the Northeast.
Current levels of mercury deposition in the Northeast are four to six times higher than the levels recorded in 1900. Ninety-six percent of the lakes in the Adirondack region and 40 percent of the lakes in New Hampshire and Vermont exceed the recommended EPA action level for methyl mercury in fish.
Because of high mercury levels in fish from six reservoirs in the Catskills, state health officials have warned that infants, children under 15 and women of childbearing age should not eat any fish from these reservoirs. Mercury is also present in two-thirds of Adirondack loons at levels that negatively impact their reproductive capacity, posing a significant risk to their survival.
New York State recommends that no one eat more than one meal per week of fish taken from any lake, river, stream or pond in New York State. There is a complete (and disturbing) list and map of the Adirondack fish advisories from the New York State Department of Health located here. It lists 55 Adirondack lakes from which “children less than 15 years old and women who are pregnant or who might one day become pregnant should not eat any fish.”
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