BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE - During a five-county tour Friday of the North Country, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) talked with local community leaders, focusing primarily on rural economic development initiatives.
But when she convened later in the day with representatives of several environmental groups in the Adirondack Museum, she said she'd be working hard to cut down on air pollution, acid rain and other threats to the Adirondack environment.
Speaking about pending environmental legislation, Gillibrand said that her posts on various U.S. Senate committees gives her considerable influence over the legislation's final form.
This was apparently good news to the leaders of the Adirondack Council, Nature Conservancy and Adirondack Mountain Club who had gathered to share their views.
Gillibrand is a member of the Senate's committees dealing with the environment, public works, foreign relations, agriculture, nutrition and forestry.
"Now is the time to debate climate change, because there are six committees in the Senate that have jurisdiction over drawing up this bill, and I'm on three of them," she said. "Those committees will have a big impact on what this bill will ultimately look like."
For the first time, the Senate Clean Air Planning Act - authored by Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee Tom Carp - would combine provisions to stem greenhouse gas emissions with mercury and acid rain reduction measures.
Gillibrand said that she supports the Carp bill, which would require 20 percent reductions in nitrogen and sulfur oxide over the next five years and would aim for 80 percent reductions by 2050.
The bill would also require significant reductions in ozone and mercury emissions over the same time period.
Gillibrand was critical of the House membership for lacking the Senate's ambition on pollution control measures.
"One of the biggest problems with the House bill was that it created an exception with the Clean Air Act for coal," Gillibrand said. "It was giving exception to the dirtiest coal plants in the country to continue to pollute without any Clean Air Act oversight."