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BREAKING NEWS

Stefanik treads lightly on coal

Shrugs at scrapping Clean Power Plan but wants action on climate change

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro (Official photo)

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro (Official photo)

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, whose northern New York district includes the Adirondack Park, has a nuanced response to the Trump administration canceling the Clean Power Plan, which would have reduced emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The Republican from Willsboro never supported the Clean Power Plan because it was started on President Barack Obama’s executive authority rather than by Congress.

“When Congress is circumvented in the process, the policy can easily be undone from one Administration to the other,” Stefanik’s spokesman Tom Flanagin wrote in an email Thursday. “Congress, not federal bureaucrats, should set our national energy policy.”

Now Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency plans to scrap the Clean Power Plan to protect coal production, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said earlier this week. The plan was never enacted; a court blocked it shortly after Obama announced it.

Flanagin said Stefanik thinks Congress should do something to rein in pollution from coal-fired plants, both because she believes it exacerbates global climate change and because it harms the Adirondacks. Emissions from dirty power plants in places such as West Virginia and Ohio blow over to the Adirondack Mountains and fall as acid rain and mercury, gradually poisoning animals, trees and water.

“Congresswoman Stefanik believes climate change is a serious threat that must be addressed in economically viable ways,” Flanagin wrote.

He pointed to a resolution Stefanik proposed in March, by which the GOP-controlled House would commit itself to “conservative environmental stewardship.” It proposed no specific actions other than a vague pledge to support “economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions” to climate change, “including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.”

Its list of “whereas” findings was more specific, however, describing climate change as a major, sweeping danger. It warned of “hotter heat waves, more severe storms, worsening flood and drought cycles, growing invasive species and insect problems, threatened native plant and wildlife populations, rising sea levels, and, when combined with a lack of proper forest management, increased wildfire risk.” It quoted the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review on climate change aggravating “poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions.”

“If left unaddressed, the consequences of a changing climate have the potential to adversely impact all Americans, hitting vulnerable populations hardest, harming productivity in key economic sectors such as construction, agriculture, and tourism, saddling future generations with costly economic and environmental burdens, and imposing additional costs on State and Federal budgets that will further add to the long-term fiscal challenges that we face as a Nation,” the resolution stated.

It begins by saying it is “a conservative principle” as well as an American duty to be good stewards of the environment “and base our policy decisions in science and quantifiable facts on the ground.”

As a caveat, though, it added that any actions to deal with climate change “should not constrain the United States economy, especially in regards to global competitiveness.”

Flanagin noted that Stefanik is a member of the House Climate Solutions Caucus, which has 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans, and supports clean, renewable energy. He also pointed out that on Sept. 25 the 33-year-old, as chair of the Republican Policy Committee’s Millennial Task Force, led a hearing on ways Congress can support the hydropower industry.

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