Here in upstate New York, we appreciate the importance of federal laws to clean up the environment and keep it clean.
The Clean Air Act, first passed in 1970, with major revisions in 1977 and 1990, has improved the air for breathing in major cities and throughout the country. It also led to a reduction in acid rain and rebirth of numerous Adirondack lakes once thought dead from acidification.
The federal government, through the Environmental Protection Agency, must take the lead on environmental legislation, because currents of air and water cross state borders. We can pass all the stringent regulations we want in New York, but that means nothing when the wind is blowing our way from surrounding states more lax with polluters.
We need the federal government to guarantee clean air to breathe and clean water to drink for all Americans. Unfortunately, the Trump administration is abdicating that leadership and going backward on the environment.
The Trump administration most recently proposed a revocation of the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era policy that expands the Clean Air Act.
The Clean Power Plan would reduce emissions by the power-generating industry of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Every year, we see more evidence of the havoc being wreaked by the warming of the planet, from the melting of Arctic ice and rise in sea levels to devastating storms and fires.
Right now, one of the worst wildfires in California history is burning. This year’s wildfires were the most damaging in U.S. history. Global warming worsens all sorts of natural disasters — hurricanes get stronger, droughts get longer and storms get more intense.
Anyone who has been alive for the past couple of decades has been able to see the changes, right here in the Glens Falls area. Winters are shorter and warmer. Summers are hotter. Ticks and other creatures have extended their ranges north.
The federal government cannot slow global warming by itself, through legislation. Everyone needs to participate. But we need leadership on this critical issue from the heads of our government.
What we have now are citizens being responsible on their own, by practicing conservation in their personal lives.
What we have now are states like New York joining with other states to challenge the irresponsibility of the federal government.
New York’s comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, has joined a coalition of 11 state and local comptrollers and treasurers, petitioning the EPA not to repeal the Clean Power Plan. Repeal could hurt not only the nation’s environment but its economy, the coalition says.
Changing business and industrial practices in response to the changing climate stimulates our economy. Green energy sectors such as wind and solar power are now reaching a critical tipping point, becoming more economical than old technology such as coal.
Research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance has concluded progress on renewable energy is moving faster than expected, and wind and solar power will soon become cheaper than coal.
Instead of lagging behind, the U.S. should take the lead on green energy. President Trump will be seeking Democratic support for the infrastructure bill he has been talking up, and he could get it by changing his tune on clean power.
Change is happening. Federal foot-dragging cannot stop it, but progress would be even better if we would all work together on this most important of issues.