3/15/2001 -- --
Passage of Legislation a Critical Step in Protecting Virginia's Streams and Rivers
Arlington, VA…Trout Unlimited, America's leading trout and salmon conservation organization, applauded Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton for introducing the Acid Rain Control Act in the Senate, as well as Senators Jeffords and Lieberman and Congressmen Waxman and Boehlert for introducing the Clean Power Act, a separate, bipartisan bill to reduce four pollutants, including the pollutants that cause acid rain. Passage of one of these bills is critical to protect eastern mountain streams from acid rain damage.
The Acid Rain Control Act would provide for further cuts in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, the two pollutants responsible for the formation of acid rain. The levels of cuts in the bill are necessary to protect the ecological health of mountain streams throughout the Appalachian Mountains. The Clean Power Act would place limits on emissions of mercury and carbon dioxide as well as on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
"These bills are supported by the science," said Leon Szeptycki, TU's Eastern Conservation Director. "Without the pollution cuts they require, populations of trout and other species from the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina to the Adirondacks of New York will continue to suffer."
In 1990 Congress passed amendments to the Clean Air Act designed to reduce the pollutants that cause acid rain. Although the pollution cuts required by those amendments are being achieved at far less than projected costs, research done since then confirms what many believed at the time: those cuts will not be sufficient to protect aquatic ecosystems in our eastern mountains.
A 1998 report by researchers at the University of Virginia studied the impacts of acid precipitation on more than 300 streams in Virginia known to support brook trout. The brook trout, Virginia's state fish, is more acid-tolerant than other trout, but cannot survive in highly acidified streams. The assessment found that only 50 percent of the study streams currently suffer no effects from acid rain. Six percent of the streams are "chronically acidic" and cannot host viable populations of brook trout or other fish species.
The research concluded that even with a 40 percent reduction in acid deposition (roughly what is expected to result from the acid rain provisions of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments), the number of chronically acidic streams would eventually more than triple. If the 1990 Amendments do not produce a full 40 percent drop in deposition levels, even more streams will suffer. Many mountain watersheds in West Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina receive similar doses of acid and have a similar buffering capacity to Virginia streams; the implications of the study for these states is disturbing. Only a 70 percent or greater reduction in acid deposition (which included acid snow and dry acid particulates as well as acid rain) will maintain roughly the current number of streams in the "non acidic" or healthy category, although even with this cut some streams will degrade.
"We are delighted that these bills have been introduced," said Charles Gauvin, TU's President and CEO. "We urge legislators from other states affected by acid rain, including Virginia, West Virginia, and the Carolinas, to push for the passage of legislation that will reduce air pollution, including the pollution that causes acid rain."