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McHugh proposes new acid rain, mercury control legislation

North Country Congressman John McHugh is proposing new stricter environmental regulations that would reduce acid rain in the Adirondacks.

McHugh's Acid Rain and Mercury Control Act would limit the emission of nitrogen, mercury and sulfur from coal-fired power plants.

The bill seeks to cut sulfur and nitrogen emissions 75 percent by 2012, based on numbers from 1997. Additionally, mercury emissions would have to decrease by 90 percent in 2013 from current levels.

Congress is expected to consider global warming legislation later this year and McHugh says he will continue to push for his bill to be enacted.

"Acid rain has to be part of that talk," he said. "I'm afraid if we're totally out of the discussion and some vehicle moves forward and we actually do something that it's going to close the door for any kind of progress in the future. I don't think we've got the time to wait that long."

Recent court rulings have hampered efforts to curb acid rain and McHugh said the situation is more urgent now than ever.

"The U.S. Court of Appeals vacated the Clean Air Mercury Rule so we're in a dire situation in terms of having on the books finalized legislation to address this problem in a more permanent fashion," he said.

McHugh, a Republican, said the bill is competing with Democrats' economic legislation for debate time in the House. While he admits it will be a challenge to get his proposal before Congress, McHugh said he's drafted a practical bill.

"It limits the emission requirements to coal-fired plants only," he said. "It's not a broad-based, economy wide proposal that brings into consideration all kinds of economic questions. I think we've taken the most reasonable tact possible and can still do something that affects the general good."

Both the Adirondack Council and the Adirondack Mountain Club have endorsed the Acid Rain and Mercury Control Act, and officials from both organizations say the legislation is imperative.

Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian Houseal said the bill would be the first step toward recovery after decades of acid rain.

"This bill is exactly what the Adirondacks need," he said. "The time has come for Congress to make a clear and unmistakable statement."

Neil Woodworth, executive director for the Adirondack Mountain Club, commended McHugh for his dedication to environmental issues in the Adirondacks.

"Lots of people talk about cleaning up the environment," he said. "But congressman McHugh is doing something about it."

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