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EPA denies New York's smog petition, despite concerns for Adirondacks

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will not assist New York with smog pollution from upwind states, it announced on Sept. 20.

The decision, signed by Administrator Andrew Wheeler, could be problematic for the Adirondack Park, which has been on a decades-long recovery from air pollution and acid rain.

The state petitioned the EPA in March 2018 to enforce a part of the Clean Air Act called The Good Neighbor provision. It stipulates that the EPA enforce pollution controls on coal-fired power plants upwind from states whose air quality is being negatively affected.

New York argued that pollution from industrial plants in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia were hurting air quality in Chautauqua County and the New York City area, particularly. It listed hundreds of plants it believes are contributing to the state’s air pollution.

Environmental organizations, including the Adirondack Council, have also been concerned about other states’ smog pollution affecting the Adirondack Park via acid rain.

The EPA said in its decision that it did not independently find, and New York did not convince it, “that the group of identified sources emits or would emit in violation of the good neighbor provision.”

The determination ends a lengthy investigation that included a comment period and public hearing. The EPA said in its 171-page decision that it received 44 written comments.

The Adirondack Council and the Environmental Defense Fund sent out a joint press release Tuesday night, condemning that EPA’s decision.

“EPA’s decision means New Yorkers face an increased risk of serious illnesses, and Americans in all downwind states have another reason to believe EPA will not protect their health,” said Graham McCahan, senior attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund, in a news release. “States that are working hard to clean up their air are at the mercy of their more-polluting neighbors, and EPA is shirking its duty to help them.”

William Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, said in a news release that the same upwind industrial sources cause acid rain in the Adirondacks. Janeway reminded the public how acid rain had “killed fish and forests and contaminated the food chain with mercury.”

“The EPA’s refusal to enforce the smog rules means more acid rain damage in the Adirondacks,” Janeway warned. “EPA has a moral and legal obligation to honor New York’s petition for relief from this pollution.”

The EPA’s decision comes among a number of environmental rollbacks in favor of the business community.

Earlier this month, the Trump Administration repealed a 2015 rule around “waters of the United States” that put strict federal regulations on things like streams and wetlands.

The EPA denied a Clean Air Act petition submitted by New York on March 12, 2018.

Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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