November 08, 2019

As Republicans Introduce Legislation To Allow Coal Plants To Further Evade Pollution Regulations, Gillibrand Questions Officials In Senate Hearing On How More Air Pollution Harms New Yorkers

Proposed Legislation Comes After EPA Rolled Back Critical Clean Air Laws that Protected New Yorkers from Acid Rain and Other Serious Health Problems

**Watch EPW Committee Hearing Video HERE** 

Washington, DC – At a Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee hearing earlier this week examining legislation that would allow coal plants to further evade air pollution regulations, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand questioned experts on how air pollution would harm New Yorkers. This comes after the Trump Administration rolled back critical clean air protections that helped to mitigate air pollution in New York State coming from coal-fired power plants in the Midwest. Gillibrand highlighted a recent report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and compiled by the Adirondack Council stating that these new polices would re-establish coal as a major fuel source, and result in an over 200 percent increase of air pollution, which causes acid rain.

“The Trump administration’s EPA has focused on repealing and replacing clean air laws with weaker standards. These rollbacks mean more, not less, air pollution falling upon communities throughout New York and the Adirondacks from coal-fired power plants in the Midwest. New York’s six-million-acre Adirondack Park, its waters, forests, and communities have suffered the worst acid rain damage in the United States, including the chemical sterilization of hundreds of high-elevation lakes and ponds,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I would like to issue a standing invitation to my Republican colleagues on this committee to spend some time with me in the Adirondacks so you can see why these impacts would be horrible for that region.”

In the hearing, Gillibrand questioned John Walke, the Clean Air Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, on how the proposed legislation, the Growing American Innovation Now (GAIN) Act, would harm New Yorkers. In his testimony, Walke confirmed that the GAIN Act would significantly increase air pollution in New York and other downwind states. He also testified that this could cause environmental damage, such as more frequent acid rain events, and more toxic pollutants like mercury and lead entering New York’s waterways. It would also contribute to more health problems like respiratory issues, heart attacks, strokes, and even premature death, particularly for people most at risk from breathing polluted air including people with asthma, children, older adults, and outdoor workers. He noted that some places in New York have the highest asthma rates in the country. Walke’s testimony made it clear that implementing the GAIN Act would put the health and safety of New Yorkers at risk by allowing more coal-fired power plants to pollute the air.

Below are the questions that Senator Gillibrand asked during the hearing:

  • What types of impacts would the GAIN Act have on air pollution levels in downwind states like New York?
  • If enacted, will residents of New York have to worry about more frequent acid rain events in their communities?
  • What effect does increased pollution from power plants have on ozone formation -- another air quality problem in states that are downwind to the emitting source.
  • Can you expand on the public health implications for people in states like New York?