Celeste, Cuomo Outline Acid Rain Reduction Agreement
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Democratic Govs. Richard Celeste of Ohio and Mario Cuomo of New York proposed Monday that Midwestern states voluntarily cut power plant emissions blamed for acid rain in return for federal aid to institute the reductions.
The proposal is aimed at breaking a deadlock in Congress over cutting emissions that are believed responsible for acid rain in the eastern United States and Canada without economically crippling the Midwest, the two governors said in a joint statement.
Celeste said the proposal ″strikes the balance between the need to protect jobs and clean up the environment without hanging like a Damocles’ sword over the coal industry.″
Cuomo called the agreement a ″terrific idea″ which he hopes can be sold to other governors and to Congress.
The proposal will be introduced in Congress shortly as an amendment to the federal Clean Air Act by U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., said Gary Fryer, Cuomo’s chief spokesman.
According to the two governors, the proposal calls for a 10 million-ton reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired utility plants nationwide in three stages by the year 2003 and a 3 million-ton reduction in nitrogen dioxide emissions by 1998.
Officials say about 23 million tons of sulfur dioxide and about 10 million tons of nitrogen dioxide are expelled into the atmosphere nationally each year, with the biggest bulk emitted from several Midwestern states.
The two governors estimated it would cost about $1.8 billion a year to reduce emissions under the plan. They proposed that polluters would pay half that cost, the oil industry would pay $650 million a year and the federal government would pay the remaining $250 million annually.
The proposal also calls for a 10-year, $2.5 billion expansion of federal ″clean coal″ programs to develop new technologies for reducing sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. That money would be handed out on a 50 percent matching-grant basis, the two governors said.
The plan calls for the federal Environmental Protection Agency to administer the emissions reduction program.
Other proposed Clean Air Act amendments now being considered by Congress would require Midwestern states to meet stricter emissions limits in a shorter time period.
″People like Dick Celeste who are very pragmatic and very smart, they see coming down the road a heavier hit on them than our bill would propose,″ Cuomo said. ″Plus, they see a chance to have the federal government pick up 50 percent of their costs of going to the new technology. So it (the proposal) serves a lot of different interests at the same time.″
At a news conference in Columbus, Ohio, Celeste said the acid rain issue has been delayed too long by those who ″prefer what is going on in Ohio now - nothing. We’re tiptoeing past the graveyard″ he said, adding the state’s economy will suffer if a compromise is not found.
Celeste admitted the plan would face stiff opposition from utilities and coal producers and said he is willing to compromise as long as some amount of federal funding is retained.
American Electric Power Co. said it would have to cancel plans to build the world’s largest clean-coal plant, near New Haven, W.Va., if the proposal is passed. The Columbus-based company also said average electricity rates for customers of its eight subsidiary utilities in seven states would increase as much as 15 percent.
New York is one of eight Northeastern states suing the EPA in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to demand that the agency order seven Midwestern and Southern states to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants.
The agreement will not affect New York’s pursuit of the suit, Cuomo administration officials said.
New York has claimed that hundreds of lakes in its Adirondack Mountains have high acid levels that are dangerous to plant and animal life.
Many environmentalists in the eastern United States and Canada maintain that emissions coming mainly from the Midwest are carried eastward by the wind and fall to the ground as acid rain or snow.