Common sense and common courtesy

Hooray for a federal appeals court upholding the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, otherwise known as the “Good Neighbor” portion of the Clean Air Act.

President Donald Trump’s administration keeps trying to erase environmental regulations to make things easier on big corporations, without any regard for the deadly consequences to humans, plants and animals downwind.

Common sense and common courtesy dictate that it’s wrong to dump your garbage over the fence into your neighbor’s yard. Yet factories and power plants dump dirty emissions into the air — made worse when they’re burning coal — and it blows over to downwind areas and states far away, doing great damage.

For one thing, it kills people. The massive amount of fine particulate matter causes respiratory ailments and contributes to many deaths. Last month, a global study by the highly respected New England Journal of Medicine once again reinforced the link between particulate matter and mortality.

Here in the Adirondacks, most people are probably aware of the damage done by pollution that blows in on prevailing winds from dirty power plants in the Ohio River Valley. As clouds holding those emissions move northeast, the Adirondacks are the first mountains they hit, and they often unload their contents in the form of rain or snow, made acidic by chemicals from those power plants. That acid rain and snow builds up in the Adirondack ecosystem over time and poisons it. At one point in the 1980s, roughly 700 Adirondack lakes and ponds were “dead” — too acidic to sustain life.

Acid rain also kills trees, and mercury — another toxin in dirty plants’ emissions — kills loons.

Nature has largely recovered since the federal government started limiting these emissions, using laws such as the Clean Air Act update of 1990 and EPA policies such as the Clean Power Plan. Acid levels are mostly back to normal, environmental scientists and advocates report.

But it should be obvious that if the government rolls back those regulations to allow more pollution, Adirondack nature will suffer again.

Why should we let these companies dump so much of their filth on us, with no restrictions? No one is even suggesting making toxic emissions 100% illegal; we’re just trying to rein it in.

Again, the damage this dumping does to nature and human health is severe: untold people dead, hundreds of dead lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks alone, fishing and tourism devastated. Yet politicians and presidential appointees — many of whom once worked in the energy industry — are willing to let that happen to cater to a rich and powerful minority that donates to politicians’ campaigns.

Thankfully, others have put laws in place to prevent this kind of thing, and there are just judges who cannot help but uphold those laws. Meanwhile, we urge today’s members of Congress to strengthen laws that protect our air quality, to protect us all in the long term.


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