Judith Enck, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 Administrator, will make a public presentation “Climate Change: The Challenge of Our Time” which features details about recent federal actions to reduce greenhouse gas and C02 emissions and what they mean for New York and the northeastern U.S.
Enck’s presentation will start at 11:00 AM, July 6th, at Great Camp Sagamore as part of Protect the Adirondacks’ annual meeting. The presentation is open to the public.
“Climate Change: The Challenge of Our Time” will focus on the EPA’s recent release of new draft greenhouse gas emission reduction regulations for over 1,000 existing power plants. EPA estimates that 83% of greenhouse gas emissions are from carbon dioxide (C02) released into the atmosphere. As a group these coal-fired power plants are the single largest sources of C02 pollution in the U.S., producing nearly 25%. These new rules expect to produce a 20% reduction in C02 emissions by 2020 and 30% by 2030 (based on 2005 levels). The new program is partly modeled after the success of the 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA) amendments, which successfully inaugurated the cap-and-trade program for reducing national emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, the two substances that cause acid rain. » Continue Reading.
Today’s announcement that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released draft greenhouse gas emission reduction regulations for over 1,000 existing power plants is a major landmark in environmental history. EPA estimates that 83% of greenhouse gas emissions are from carbon dioxide (C02) released into the atmosphere.
As a group these coal-fired power plants are the single largest sources of C02 pollution in the U.S., producing nearly 25%. These new rules expect to produce a 20% reduction in C02 emissions at these plants by 2020 and 30% by 2030 (based on 2005 levels). » Continue Reading.
The Watershed Stewardship Program at Paul Smith’s College has won a $500,000 federal grant to help protect lakes and rivers from invasive species. The grant, which was awarded from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, was announced last week. The program is directed by Dr. Eric Holmlund. The EPA has supported the program with two earlier grants.
As part of the program, the Watershed Stewardship Program is expected to expand its watercraft-inspection efforts for the 2015 season; as part of the work, seasonal inspectors are expected to perform 14,000 inspections at about 20 boat launches across the western Adirondacks to help prevent the spread of invasive species such as Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels and spiny waterflea. The stewards hope to remove any invaders they find and educate boaters how they can help prevent the spread of invasives themselves. » Continue Reading.
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 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 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 Museum has received a $1 million federal grant to conduct a new research project aimed at protecting endangered species of native freshwater mussels from the impacts of invasive zebra mussels.
With the grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), through its Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Museum scientists will use what they are calling an “environmentally safe invention – a biopesticide” to continue their research with a new emphasis on open water applications. The project will be led by Museum research scientists Daniel Molloy and Denise Mayer. » Continue Reading.
Trustees for the Hudson River dredging project have announced their support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plans to continue to remove PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) from the Hudson River. The overall environmental benefits of the dredging greatly outweigh any short-term PCB impacts of the work, they said.
The announcement came in the wake of several days of presentations in Glens Falls by EPA and General Electric before a panel of dredging experts reviewing Phase I of the project, completed last year. The panel will offer recommendations and propose changes that could be incorporated into the second phase of the project, set to begin in 2011. The natural resources trustees for the Hudson River dredging project are the:
* New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). * U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). * U.S. Department of Commerce, represented by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The trustees’ role is to perform an assessment of injuries to natural resources resulting from the release of PCBs into the river by GE. DEC also supports EPA with technical advice and oversight for the project.
Although the Phase I dredging stirred up PCBs in the river and raised the PCB level in fish near the work, the trustees have said that they had expected these short-term effects from the dredging. Similar short-term effects have occurred during past dredging in the river.
PCB levels in the river and in fish decreased downstream from the dredging work, with no significant increase found farther downstream in the lower Hudson River, the trustees said in a recent press release.
PCB levels in the water and the fish adjacent to the Phase I work will decrease within a few years, they said. The trustees expect a similar result after the entire dredging project is completed. Overall levels will be lower because a large amount of PCBs will have been permanently removed from the river.
“Over the next several years, we have a unique opportunity to permanently remove significant amounts of PCB contamination from the Hudson River for the benefit of future generations of New Yorkers,” said DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis. “A comprehensive remedial dredging project is an integral step in the restoration of this iconic river, and we fully support EPA in its efforts to get the job done right.”
“We disagree with many of the conclusions presented by GE in the peer review process,” said Northeast Regional Director Marvin Moriarty of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We agree with EPA that the overall environmental benefits of the dredging greatly outweigh any short-term impacts associated with the work.”
“Restoration of the Hudson River begins with a robust cleanup” said Dr. Robert Haddad, Chief of NOAA’s Assessment and Restoration Division. “GE’s proposal will further delay the recovery and restoration of this nationally historic river, which has been contaminated since the 1940s.”
Highlights: The trustees also expressed their position on the following issues:
The trustees believe it is important to focus on project quality, even if this means the project takes longer.
Depth of contamination
PCBs extend deeper into the riverbed than originally believed. The trustees believe that capping sediment is not an acceptable solution. Capping has potential long-term consequences, including risk of cap failure.
Containing PCB oil
The trustees believe that PCB oil on the river surface during Phase I was a major contributor to PCB release into the river. They recommend containing and collecting PCB oil to reduce the short-term effects from dredging.
The trustees support dredging in shallow areas, allowing barges better access to dredge areas. Increasing the amount of sediment on barges will improve productivity and reduce re-suspending contaminated sediments.
On Earth Day 1970, people around the country, mostly college students, demonstrated on behalf of environmental causes. Forty years later, the environmental movement has come into the mainstream and secured state and federal agency leadership positions. More importantly, the movement has significantly improved the quality of our rivers, lakes and forests and in doing so has provided for the proliferation of local wildlife. While there are certainly challenges that remain – invasive species, inappropriate development, toxic exposures, nitrate and storm water management, climate change, the plight of amphibians, migratory birds, and bats – the environmental successes of the last 40 years should not be underestimated. By and large, the first Earth Day was much like those that have followed: politicians, celebrities, concerts, environmental fairs, and the like. But Earth Day 1970 was a radical proposition in a time before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded, and before there were state sanctioned bodies like the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to protect the environment. At Boston’s Logan Airport, where a few hundred demonstrators had gathered in what a CBS reporter called a “thoroughly peaceful and non-disruptive demonstration”, police charged the crowd and arrested 13.
In the 40 years since that first Earth Day the Adirondack region has seen a revolution in the way we interact with our environment. Sure, we can point to the founding of DEC (1970), the establishment of the EPA (1971), the Clean Air Act (1970), and the Clean Water Act (1972), State Environmental Quality Review Act (1980), the Superfund Law (1980), and the Environmental Protection Fund (1993) but there has been a leadership revolution as well. Today, Pete Grannis, who was part of the first Earth Day demonstrations, is now the head of the DEC. Judith Enck, the state’s leading environmental activist in the 1980s, is now the Administrator of EPA’s Region 2.
Changes in the natural environment have been extraordinary. The Hudson River, once an open sewer where no one dared to boat, never-mind swim or fish, now bustles with recreation activities in summer. According to the DEC, the number of seriously polluted waters in the state has fallen by 85% and Sulfur Dioxide pollution is down by 90%, with a corresponding improvement in Acid Rain.
Successes we don’t typically consider include the closure of outdated and poorly located landfills (more than 100 in Adirondacks alone), the elimination of the tire dumps (including more than 27 million tires statewide), the cleaning up of Superfund and brownfield sites (1,800 statewide) and the thousands of water bodies large and small around the state that have been cleaned-up in the last 40 years through waste-water management.
We may not consider those victories as much as we should, but local wildlife certainly has. In 1970 there was just one occupied Bald Eagle nest in New York State, in 2010 there are 173. Eagles and other raptors we rarely saw in the 1970s and 1980s, birds like the peregrine falcon, are now fairly frequent sights; ravens and osprey have returned to the Adirondacks. Wild turkeys have exploded from about 25,000 in 2010 to 275,000 today, and so turkey hunting has returned to the Adirondacks. Native trout have been returned to more than 50 ponds according to the DEC, and the average number of fish species has increased by a third offering increased angling opportunities. Beaver, fisher, and otter have flourished in cleaner, more diverse waters and so trapping seasons have returned for those species. In 1970 there were no Moose in the Adirondacks, today there are 400 to 500 in the region.
Clean water, clean air, and open spaces were the demands at the first Earth Day in 1970. Those demands were met by legions of combative corporations, industry alliances, business groups, chambers of commerce and their attorneys. A look at a local paper on any given day shows that those battles continue, but 40 years has shown that the environmental movement has been an enormous success. Despite the attacks and “enviro-nazi” insults, the former hippies, political greens, organization environmentalists, and wildlife conservationists who have made up the environmental movement have much to be proud of.
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.
When the first bucketload of oily Hudson River muck rises today, ten miles south of the Adirondack Park Blue Line in Fort Edward, it will mark the end of a quarter century of preparation, study, legal skirmishing and no small amount of foot-dragging. Throughout, the goal has remained consistent: the removal of approximately 2,650,000 cubic yards of Hudson Riverbed sediment laced with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Here is a timeline of the delays:
September 1984 EPA formally places the Hudson River PCBs Superfund site on the National Priorities List. EPA chooses to take no remedial action, citing possible environmental risks posed by stirring up the PCB deposits. Babies born around this date will have graduated with advanced degrees in environmental sciences by the week clean-up actually begins. Unfortunately, considerably more babies will have graduated with degrees in law and public relations.
December 2000 After more than a decade of study and advances in remediation technology, EPA proposes a dredging plan to remove PCB pollution from a 40-mile long stretch of Hudson River between Hudson Falls and Troy NY. A final act of the Clinton Administration’s EPA.
(image right: In a last-ditch effort to derail the inevitable multi-million dollar expense of dredging, GE launches a PR campaign to convince the public and lawmakers to just let the PCBs be.)
August 2001 Following an extended public comment period EPA administrator Christine Whitman agrees to go ahead with the plan.
(image right: The decision by Whitman to back the dredging plan exposed a rift in the traditionally pro-industrial GOP. On the Hudson, the future of the river ran between Governor Pataki and his one-time protege Congressman John Sweeney.)
February 2002 EPA issues its official Record of Decision for a phased dredging project. Dredging scheduled to begin Spring 2005.
(image right: In March 2002 the EPA gets off to an impolitic start, siting the project field office in Saratoga Springs, 21 miles from the dredging site in Fort Edward. The decision is hastily reversed, prompting delays.)
October 2002 The war over cleaning up the Hudson River is eighteen years old, over twice the length of The War for American Independence.
(image right: Reenactors celebrated the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Saratoga at a Fort Edward farm belonging to a cousin of Fort Edward Supervisor Merrilyn Pulver, a dredging opponent.)
March 2003 EPA issues an adjustment to the dredging schedule to accommodate negotiations with GE on payment for and conduct of the dredging operations. Dredging scheduled to begin Spring 2006.
October 2005 EPA and GE reach an agreement on payment for and conduct of the dredging operations. Dredging scheduled to begin Spring 2007.
July 2006 EPA Region 2 Administrator Alan Steinberg cites delays in the delivery of specialized dredging equipment. Dredging scheduled to begin Spring 2008.
November 2006 EPA and GE agree to a Consent Decree that will begin dredging.
2008 EPA approves design of Phase I implementation plan.
Jan 2009 Modification to 2006 Consent Decree stipulating payment for clean water supplies for affected communities during the dredging operations. Dredging scheduled to begin May 2009.
May 15, 2009 In time for the 400th anniversary of the first chronicled exploration of the Hudson by Europeans, the innovative minds that helped build General Electric into one of the mightiest industrial empires in human history have finally run out of excuses to not clean up the river. Or so we believe. . . (Cartoons originally appeared in the Glens Falls Post-Star, and Hill Country Observer)
The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) was one of 26 projects across New York State to receive the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s highest honor: the Environmental Quality Award. The award ceremony was held last week in Manhattan in conjunction with Earth Day. Founded in 1998 and housed by The Nature Conservancy in Keene Valley, APIPP is leading the charge to protect Adirondack natural resources from the damaging effects of invasive species by engaging partners and finding solutions through a coordinated, strategic, and integrated regional approach. Unlike many places, the opportunity exists in the Adirondacks to hold the line against invasive species and prevent them from wreaking havoc on natural resources and economic vitality. » 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.”
The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) has vowed to vigorously oppose the Bush administration’s efforts to reinstate a federal regulation that would expose the environment to mercury contamination.
In February, a federal appeals court ruled that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) conflicted with the clear language of the federal Clean Air Act, which requires power plants to install the best technology available to reduce mercury emissions. Now, the administration is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse that decision. CAMR, a cap-and-trade program, allowed polluters to buy pollution credits and emit mercury without pollution controls, which in turn resulted in regional mercury “hot spots.” Two recent studies have linked coal-fired power plants to mercury hot spots in the Adirondacks and Catskills.
ADK has joined with more than a dozen states, leading medical, health care and public health groups, and several prominent national environmental advocacy groups to challenge CAMR. In January 2007, ADK filed a brief with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asserting that CAMR was an illegal attempt to weaken the strict mercury emission controls in the Clean Air Act.
Last Friday, acting Solicitor General Greg Garre filed a petition asking the high court to restore the EPA mercury rule. The power industry is also seeking a Supreme Court review of the case.
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 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 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.
A long-term study by the Wildlife Conservation Society, released earlier this year, confirmed that human-generated mercury emissions are degrading the health and reproductive success of loons in the Northeast. High mercury levels have also been recorded in eagles, songbirds, otters and other animals in the Northeast.
The Adirondack Council reserved its highest praise for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation, while offering criticism to the federal government and State Senate in its 23rd Annual “State of the Park” report. The publication tracks the actions of local, state and federal officials who helped or hurt the ecological health or wild beauty of the Adirondack Park over the past 12 months.
A non-partisan environmental research, education and advocacy organization based in the Adirondack Park, the Adirondack Council is funded solely through private donations. It doesn’t accept government grants or taxpayer-funded contributions of any kind. The Council does not endorse candidates for public office. » Continue Reading.
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