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Last Month, The EPA Announced Plans To Cut Of Rural Air Quality Monitoring Sites In Oswego, Franklin, And Essex Counties, Which Would Severely Limit Local Monitoring of Pollutants; Senator Says He Is Committed To Fighting For More Funding To Keep These Sites Open

Schumer Says These Stations Provide Essential Data For Protecting The North Country & Adirondack’s Ecosystems, Tracking Airborne Pollution, And Have Played A Critical Role In Curbing Acid Rain And Promoting Major Environmental Legislation Like the Clean Air Act

Schumer To Feds: We Can’t Let Upstate New York’s Progress On Air Pollution & Acid Rain Become Dust In the Wind, EPA Must Reverse Course Re-Open Critical Air Monitoring Stations

Citing environmental concerns, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to immediately reverse course and reopen the three air quality monitoring stations it recently announced it would close in the North Country and Adirondack region. In a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Schumer explained that these sites in Oswego, Franklin, and Essex Counties play an integral role in preserving the Upstate New York’s ecosystems, catching harmful polluters who violate federal law, and have played a critical role in providing evidence for major environmental legislation.  The senator said he is committed to fighting to increase funding for rural air quality monitoring sites like those impacted by this decision in Upstate New York and said now is the time for the federal government to double down on their commitment to important air quality stations like this not cut them.

“The North Country and Adirondack Mountains are home to some of Upstate New York’s most beautiful natural landscapes, lakes and wildlife, but cutting these vital air quality monitoring stations could shift the winds on years of progress to protect these environments,” said Senator Schumer. “That is why I am calling on the EPA to immediately reverse course and reopen these sites in Oswego, Franklin, and Essex Counties. Now is the time to uplift stations like these that have been on the frontlines of stopping acid rain from poisoning our ecosystems, and I am fully committed to increasing resources to breathe new life into this program so all New York’s air quality monitoring stations can continue their vital work keeping our air clean.”

“The Adirondack Council applauds Senator Schumer and others in Congress calling on President Biden’s EPA Administrator Regan to restore critical federally funded air quality monitoring in the Adirondacks and across the Country,” said William C. Janeway, Adirondack Council Executive Director. “At this critical time when the climate crisis threatens public health, clean water, Adirondack loons and the economy expanding investments in science and monitoring, not cutting them, is essential.”

Schumer explained that under the current EPA decision the Huntington Wildlife Forest site in Essex County, Akwesasne Mohawk-Fort Covington site in Franklin County, and the Bennett Bridge site in Oswego County would suspend their air quality monitoring work. Schumer said that the air monitoring work done at these sites was essential in the fight against acid rain and pollution in the Adirondack lakes and North Country forests, and that data collected at these sites directly contributed to major legislation like the Clean Air Act. Schumer said that he is committed to fighting for any additional funding the EPA may need to make up for these cuts and rebuild and modernize its air quality monitoring network.

A copy of Schumer’s original letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan appears below:

Dear Administrator Regan:

I write to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse course and reopen the three air quality monitoring stations recently closed in New York State.  We need more air quality monitoring, not less, and I am committed to fighting for additional funding in Fiscal Year 2023 to keep these, and all of New York’s air quality monitoring stations up and running. EPA must reverse course and continue keeping a watchful eye on our air.

I was recently informed that EPA had closed down three key air quality monitoring sites in New York State – Huntington, Akwesasne-Mohawk, and Bennett Bridge.  These sites are a part of key air quality monitoring networks that maintain a watchful eye on important pollutants.  These networks are: CASTNet, the Clean Air Status and Trends Network, which measures ambient air quality for key pollutants listed in the Clean Air Act; NTN, the National Trends Network, which monitors nitrogen and tracks ozone, smog, and excess nutrient loading, and; AMON, the Ambient Ammonia Monitoring Network which tests for ammonia in ambient air.  According to research conducted by New York State under the auspices of the Adirondack Lakes Research Corp and others, by the 1980s, roughly 25% of the Adirondack Park’s 2,800 larger lakes and ponds (10 acres or more) were rendered lifeless by air pollution that poisoned the soil and spread mercury pollution into fish and wildlife.  The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 brought the first federal acid rain control program, and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule made additional progress. Those pollution control measures were created because New York and other Northeast states had evidence to show regulators – first, evidence that cuts were needed; then, evidence that the cuts were working.  There are currently some signs of recovery from acid rain beginning to emerge in the Adirondacks, where the worst damage in the nation has been documented.  Some fish species are more plentiful, and some species are no longer toxic due to humans due to mercury contamination.  But progress varies from lake to lake.  So we can see that these controls are working, and it is the air quality monitoring networks that let us know that is the case.  Most importantly, losing these stations would close the EPA’s eyes and ears to violations of federal law.

Furthermore, the GAO warned Congress in December of 2019 that the nation’s air quality monitoring network was becoming antiquated and needed an influx of capital for modern equipment.  That modernization has not begun, and EPA’s recent decision to close more monitoring stations is exactly the opposite of what GAO says we need.  This modernization would allow this network to monitor PM 2.5, black carbon, PFAS in rainfall, and greenhouse gases.  The data behind this modernized monitoring network is exactly what Congress and regulators need to build more effective environmental laws and regulations.

Therefore, I urge the EPA to reverse course and reopen these monitoring sites, while working with me to provide the funding we need to rebuild and modernize our air quality monitoring network.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to my staff with any questions you may have.