Stefanik improves record on pollution
We’re glad the North Country’s congressional representative, Elise Stefanik, voted to retain clean air rules — one of only two Republicans from New York and 11 nationwide to do so.
They didn’t prevail, though. The U.S. House of Representatives voted last week to stall Obama-era reductions in smog-causing air pollutants by another eight years. The bill would also go back 27 years and erode the Clean Air Act of 1990, which was a true turning point in the reversing the course of acid rain killing Adirondack fish and trees.
A reminder: By 1990, acid rain had destroyed many high-elevation spruce and fir forests and also caused some 700 lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks — more than a quarter of them — to no longer be able to support life, according to federal research. Brook trout, the Adirondack Park’s iconic native fish, were in serious danger of being wiped out here.
The Clean Air Act reversed that trend, and the Park largely recovered. Four years ago, an angler caught a state record brookie in a southern Adirondack lake that had been listed as “dead.” Much more needs to be done, however. Many fish still contain mercury from Midwestern plant emissions, and New York state continues to warn against eating even small quantities of certain fish caught here. Plus, studies clearly show a link between these pollutants and asthma.
Think of the damage an eight-year free-for-all for polluters could do to people’s health, fish and forests.
The bill (HR 806) is officially named the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017, but environmentalists have more accurately nicknamed it the “Smoggy Skies Act.” The main lobbyists for it are industrial interests; medical and environmental groups are lined up against it. The Senate has sent the bill to a committee, and we urge senators everywhere to stop it.
Stefanik, being more at home in Washington than in the Adirondacks, has in the past sided with her Republican Party’s majority on clean air issues, but after taking much criticism, she has come to realize that voting to kill fish in the Adirondacks doesn’t go over very well with North County voters. For a while she just paid lip service to the notion that in the Adirondacks, the environment is our economy, but now she’s starting to act on that by breaking ranks with her party.
Next she needs to do whatever she can to preserve the Environmental Protection Agency’s acid rain research and monitoring grants, which are threatened. Many in her party want to stop doing the science work to even keep track of pollution’s impact — the idea being, “Who cares if companies kill animals and forests and make people sick?”
We care, of course. The vast majority of Americans do. Living in the Adirondacks, the opposite viewpoint is obscene to us.
Stefanik is in a hot seat, politically. Almost a year-and-a-half before the next election, four Democrats and a conservative Republican have already filed to run against her. As Congress struggles along and her party-mate President Donald Trump’s antics continue to astonish — pleasing some and enraging others — Stefanik is trying to play the middle ground while retaining her GOP standing.
That’s fine, but when it comes to factories dumping toxic chemicals that destroy the Adirondacks’ natural beauty, we don’t see it as political and don’t see why any politician representing this area would ever vote to allow it.