Gillibrand pledges fight to curb acid rain, air pollution

According to the state-funded Adirondack Lakes Survey Corp., roughly 60 percent of Adirondack lakes are experiencing declining water quality - choking life and slowly poisoning local human populations.

The environmental and scientific communities attribute the rapid decline in regional water quality to pollutants spewed from about 80 coal-powered electricity plants in the Tennessee and Ohio valleys.

According to Adirondack Mountain Club executive director Neil Woodworth, in-park mercury levels are six times the level measured 100 years ago. He also noted empirical evidence of increased mercury levels in the bodies of area woman of child-birthing age.

Woodworth and Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian Houseal and Nature Conservancy Director of Federal Programs David Higby lauded Gillibrand for supporting and influencing the Carp bill. They also called for increased U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regulation on coal burning plants to require the use of pollutant reducing scrubbers.

Houseal said the Council supports the Carp legislation.

"I know the senator has heard from hundreds of northern and upstate New York constituents about the need to include acid rain in the climate-change bill," he said. "And we're hoping that she will back the language that Senator Carp from Delaware has included."

Woodworth said he's seeking even more immediate and drastic regulation.

"We could remove 90 percent of mercury," he said. "That should be the standard. The technology is here, and given the tax incentives that the senator has suggested, we could accomplish that by 2015."

But for Gillibrand, the passage of a practical bill that can gain support with Democrats from states with coal-fired plants and coal mines is more important than taking a philosophical stand with stronger legislation that would likely fail in committee.

"We don't want a watered-down acid rain provision, and Chairwoman Boxer has said she's only going to allow amendments that have 100 percent Democratic support," Gillibrand said.

Considering that many Midwesterners would not support such a tough measure, Gillibrand suggested routing the more stringent provisions through a legislative conference or including them in a stand-alone bill.

Gillibrand said the creation of incentives for the installation of the costly scrubber system with tax breaks may be the compromise that the coal industry and their Senators are looking for.

Discussions regarding the Carp legislation began last week and are expected to continue throughout the current legislative session.

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