GLENS FALLS — A staunch defender of the environment is calling out Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik for not doing enough to protect the Adirondacks.
As new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt proposes rolling back and repealing environmental regulations, former regional EPA Administrator Judith Enck said the Adirondacks are being placed in danger.
The mountainous, snowy area will have the ecology of West Virginia in 70 to 80 years if nothing is done, she said.
“More ticks. More invasive species,” she said in a Post-Star editorial board meeting last week. “Goodbye Gore Mountain, West Mountain, all the ski centers.”
And she predicted a huge impact on the businesses that are based on a snow economy: selling snowmobiles, housing skiers and selling food and drink to winter enthusiasts, among others.
While she blamed Pruitt — and the Trump administration — on the reduction in environmental regulations, she said the area needs a crucial ally: Stefanik.
“She has to vote the right way on the floor,” Enck said. “Her lifelong voting record (on supporting the environment) is 19 percent.”
Stefanik disagreed with Enck in a statement Friday. Her aide, Tom Flanagin, said Enck was “misinformed.”
He noted that Stefanik is a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus and co-chairperson of the Invasive Species Caucus. She has introduced two pieces of legislation aimed to combat invasive species and was last year awarded the Supporter of Nature Award from the Nature Conservancy.
She was also the co-author of a Republican climate change resolution introduced last year that called for innovations in clean energy.
“Clean energy innovation is key to addressing the serious issue of climate change,” Stefanik said about the resolution, calling it a “priority” to address climate change.
She is on the record opposing President Donald Trump’s budget, partly because of the proposed cuts to the EPA, and she pledged to keep fighting to protect the Adirondacks, even when that means voting against her party.
Enck spoke as a volunteer environmental advocate, saying she has no interest or intention in running for office. Instead, she said, she wants to focus on the environment.
In particular, she wants Stefanik to champion the Clean Power Plan, which is currently being considered for repeal.
The rule was expected to lead to a 24 percent reduction in carbon, nationwide.
“That would have given us a fighting chance against climate change,” Enck said. “It would have slowed it down.”
That’s what is needed to keep snow in the Adirondacks.
Stefanik has criticized the Clean Power Plan and last year voted for an exemption for plants if the governor of their state said the carbon reductions would raise electricity prices too much.
On the other hand, Stefanik sent a letter to Pruitt about the necessity of funding acid rain research in the Adirondacks, as well as a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke about the hemlock woolly adelgid.
In the letter to Zinke, Stefanik asked pointed questions about Zinke’s plan to combat the invasive species that has just reached the Adirondacks and whether he was going to share that plan with state and local officials.
“An effective response is essential during the time immediately following detection,” she wrote.
To Pruitt, she said that a cut in funding could bring back “the days of dead lakes and a dying forest.”
“While we are all pleased to see the Park come back from the brink, work is ongoing and we risk a return to more polluted days should we turn away from this important monitoring,” she wrote in a letter signed by seven other Congress members as well, including Republican John Faso and Democrat Paul Tonko of New York.
The letter emphasized that the tightening of the Clean Air Act made the difference.
Enck is also worried about the air.
“The Clean Air Act is in jeopardy. What they’re doing is death by a thousand cuts,” Enck said.
She acknowledged that companies have to spend a lot to protect air and water.
“A big fossil fuel power plant installing electrostatic precipitators costs them money. Us telling a company they can’t build in a wetland means they can’t expand there,” she said. “But protecting wetlands means you don’t have a flood. And we all benefit from breathing clean air.”
She said Pruitt ought to “be honest” and tell Congress that he thinks the clean air and clean water acts are bad for business.
“Then John Faso and Elise Stefanik get to debate that,” she said.
The trouble is that the fight isn’t “dramatic,” she said.
There aren’t streams with orange water that must be cleaned. The creep of invasive species that kill trees, make water undrinkable and ruin lake recreation is hard to see.
But the proposed cut in EPA’s budget would make the area much worse, Enck said.
Funding to combat invasive species in Adirondack lakes would almost definitely be reduced, if not eliminated, she said. The remaining budget also wouldn’t have enough money to support needed work here on reducing nitrogen runoff from farms or building more infrastructure to keep sewage out of lakes, she said.
“I think the Adirondacks is more at risk than other parts of the state,” Enck said.