When it comes to acid rain, no place in the United States has been hit harder than the Adirondacks. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from those big Midwestern coal-fired power plants go up the tall smokestacks, get carried by the wind and come down in the Adirondack Park, making lakes unsustainable for fish, harming the soil and weakening trees.
Some progress has been made restoring the ecosystem in recent years, thanks to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules between 1995 and 2010 that limited power-plant emissions.
But further progress was jeopardized by a U.S. Court of Appeals decision last summer that said new EPA rules went too far in telling utilities how far they must go to cut cross-border pollution. Fortunately the Obama administration appealed, and the U.S. Supreme Court this week agreed to hear the case.
The EPA appears to have a decent chance of prevailing, even with a conservative, business-friendly court such as this one. Not only is acid rain a problem recognized by all (unlike global warming, which power plants also contribute to in a big way), it’s a public health threat. Sulfur dioxide and fine particulates help produce smog, and, by changing soil chemistry, turn inorganic, harmless mercury into the organic, dangerous kind. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has clear authority to make rules in the interest of public health.
New York and other Northeastern states have no control over over what comes from outside their borders. The EPA does — or at least should.The Supreme Court should let it do its job so the Adirondack Park and rest of the Northern Forest can continue their recovery from the acid rain onslaught.