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McHugh proposes strict environmental legislation

WILMINGTON - The drizzle that fell outside the window at Whiteface Mountain only underscored the immediacy of Congressman John McHugh's new environmental legislation. On Saturday, Oct. 27, McHugh held a press conference in Wilmington to announce The Healthy Air and Clean Water Act, legislation targeted at combatting pollutants that have been affecting the Adirondack region. He introduced legislation was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on Oct. 29. "The time to act is now," said McHugh. "Acid rain and climate change are affecting Northern and Central New York, to the detriment of our environment, our economy, and our health. This legislation would reduce mercury, carbon, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide by the largest amount ever required by law. Curbing air and water pollution is essential to maintaining the vibrant tourism industry of the Adirondacks and Northern New York." The bill would sharply reduce emissions from the nations electric power plants. The bill would require all power plants to cut emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide by 75 percent of 1997 levels by 2010. The two pollutants are the main components of acid rain. A quarter of Adirondack lakes and ponds are now too acidic to support aquatic life. Acid rain also depletes calcium in soil, affecting local vegetation. McHugh was joined by environmental advocates Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian Houseal, Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth, and and Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) President Ted Blazer. McHugh credited the input of local organizations with creating the legislation. "Everybody's talking about global warming, but Congressman McHugh is doing something tangible about this and other threats to the Adirondacks and the plants at large. This legislation shows the kind of courageous leadership we need in Washington, and we urge Congress to act on it," said Woodworth. Coal-burning power plants are responsible for about one-third of the total U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and mercury. McHugh's bill would mandate a 25 percent reduction in carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants by 2020 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050. It would also establish a market-based carbon emissions program to provide an economic incentive for coal-burning power plants to reduce emissions. McHugh's bill would also require a 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions from coal-fired plants by 2011. Plants that exceed the emission standard would face fines of $10,000 for each ounce of mercury over the limit. Ninety-six percent of lakes in the Adirondacks exceed the Environmental Protection Agency's recommended level for methyl mercury in fish, resulting in advisories about eating fish from the lakes. Climate change threatens the local economy, which relies heavily on winter sports. Global warming could significantly reduce habitat for brook trout and other cold water fish, and also leave the forests vulnerable to invasive species. McHugh acknowledged that it would be a tough fight to get the legislation through, but felt it was worthwhile. He hoped to work with representatives from both parties to get the legislation through Congress. "For the sake of our environment and those who make their homes within it, it is our duty to stand up and protect our surroundings. The Healthy Air and Clean Water Act would put us on the right track and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House of Representatives to garner support for this most important issue," said McHugh.

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