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Pataki Orders 50 Percent Pollution Cuts At Power Plants

Governor George Pataki has announced new rules designed to produce sharp reductions of chemical pollutants emitted from New York State’s coal burning electric power plants.
The change in state environmental regulations will cut emissions of sulfur dioxide by 50 percent, the main cause of acid rain, and nitrogen oxides, which causes smog as well as acid rain. The new state law will also be tougher than federal rules, which currently limit these emissions only during summer months.
The change in the state law came because of efforts to reduce the poisonous impact of acid rain on the forests and waterways of the Adirondacks, Catskills, the Hudson Valley, and the Long Island Sound. However, thousands of Queens residents, particularly asthma sufferers, stand to dramatically benefit by the new rules.
Aside from environmental groups, the new proposals are being hailed by local residents because five of New York City’s top seven industrial air pollution producers are located in Queens, according to a 1996 study released by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The City’s top three — two Con Edison and a State Power Authority plant — are located in northwestern Queens’ Astoria and Long Island City. The other two, are Kennedy Airport, ranked fourth, and LaGuardia Airport, which is rated sixth.
According to the NRDC’s report, nearly 5,800 pounds of pollutants per hour are dumped into the borough’s atmosphere by these five facilities. There are an estimated 35,000 local children who are affected by these deadly emissions, according to the New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens pediatricians.
These industrial pollutants, coupled with vehicular fumes, also contain high levels of carcinogens, which have helped convert Long island City and Astoria into cancer hot-spots, according to a report issued by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
"New York is taking a great step forward and setting a standard for the nation to follow," said David Hawkins, Director of the NRDC’s Air Program.
George Delis, District manager of C.B. 1, hailed the Governor’s memo. "As someone who suffers from asthma, I am glad that they are finally addressing this problem," he said. Delis also pointed out that kids in his district still have to contend with fumes in six coal-burning schools that are waiting for oil burner conversion.
Environmentalists, however, complain that the federal Clean Air Act and the new state guidelines have no legal control over the increasingly heavy volumes of pollutants generated by the borough’s two airports. Early last year, the federal DOT approved increased flights to and from LaGuardia Airport. The new schedule, say critics, dumps an additional 86,000 pounds of smog-forming gases per year on Queens residents. As if to compensate for this increase, the federal EPA approved the installation of a super monitor in Queensborough Community College to measure air pollution hot spots in Queens.
State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is battling polluters on two levels: he has been investigating operators of New York State power plants for possible violations of federal and state pollution laws; and, last week, he announced plans to sue out-of-state power plant operators for violation of federal air pollution laws when they impact New York State communities.
The tougher emissions law will raise the local electricity rates between one and two percent, but will place New York State ahead of the rest of the country in the five-year (2003-2007) schedule mandated by the federal Clean Air Act.

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