ELIZABETHTOWN, New York, October 6, 2009 (ENS) – New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo earned a perfect rating from the nonprofit Adirondack Council’s State of the Park Report today, winning praise for his work striking down weak Bush administration air pollution standards that could have clouded the air over the park.

The State of the Park report is released each year in advance of election day, to provide information on local, state and federal government officials and their policy decisions to Adirondack Council members in all 50 states. This year, election day falls on November 3, but as in odd years, neither governor nor attorney general positions are on the ballot.

As the leader of an 18-state coalition of attorneys general, Cuomo won a lawsuit proving that the Bush administration’s EPA illegally issued weak pollution standards for soot and fine particles from electric power plants. The court sent the standards back to the EPA, charging the agency to issue stronger, more protective air pollution standards for fine soot.

“Attorney General Cuomo was also singled out for warning wind power companies that he was watching them after his investigators revealed that some companies had bribed and intimidated local officials when seeking permission to construct wind turbines in rural Upstate communities,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian Houseal.

In October 2008, Cuomo issued the Wind Industry Ethics Code to bar wind companies from hiring municipal officials or their relatives or compensating government employees more than $10 per year. By July 2009, most major wind developers in the state had signed onto the ethics code.

Camping in Adirondack Park (Photo by Ross Barclay)

The Adirondack Park in northeast New York is the largest park and the largest state-level protected area in the contiguous United States, and the largest National Historic Landmark. At 9,300 square miles, the Adirondack Park is larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, and contains most of the old growth forest and roadless wilderness in the Eastern states.

More than half of the Adirondack Park is private land, home to 11 villages and a few dozen hamlets. Populated by 130,000 year-round residents and 110,000 seasonal residents, the park hosts ten million visitors yearly.

In its State of the Park report, the Adirondack Council gave Governor David Paterson a mixed review – thumbs up for his move to limit climate change, but thumbs down for proposing to cap the state’s property tax payments in communities that host Adirondack Forest Preserve.

“Governor Paterson received praise for his recent proposal to curb carbon dioxide emissions,” Houseal said. “He also won praise for making solid appointments to the Adirondack Park Agency and U.S. Senate and for signing the new Bigger Better Bottle Bill.

In August, Governor Paterson signed an Executive Order setting a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in New York State by 80 percent below the levels emitted in 1990 by the year 2050. The Executive Order also creates the Climate Action Council with a directive to prepare a draft Climate Action Plan by September 30, 2010. The governor’s actions came after the Legislature failed to approve a bill setting a similar carbon reduction goal.

“The Adirondack Council’s criticism of the governor stemmed from his proposal to cap the state’s property tax payments in communities that host Adirondack Forest Preserve,” Houseal said. “In addition, he participated in large raids on the state’s Environmental Protection Fund and advanced a plan that would have removed the EPF’s most stable funding source, replacing it with an untried revenue source.”

“He also offered to provide extra carbon dioxide allowances to companies that complained about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and we were troubled by his announcement that he would review state environmental regulations and throw out the unpopular ones,” Houseal said.

The State Legislature its highest marks in years for what it accomplished when both houses worked together. In April, Senate and Assembly leaders joined forces to defeat Governor Paterson’s December 2008 budget proposal to cap all state property tax payments to communities that host taxable state lands, such as the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves.

Also receiving praise in the Adirondack Council’s report were the Adirondack Park Agency, the Department of Environmental Conservation and individual local government leaders.

“Several Adirondack local governments can boast of extraordinary achievements this year, doing things that we wish the State Legislature would do Park-wide or statewide,” Houseal said. “The Fulton County Town of Inlet this year passed a local law requiring the inspection of existing septic systems when residential and commercial properties change hands. Malfunctioning septic systems can cause water pollution, including bacterial outbreaks, excess nutrients that provoke rapid weed growth and pharmaceutical contamination.

“I am pleased to report that Adirondack communities are showing real leadership on the major environmental issues of our time,” Houseal said. “There was a time when it seemed like environmental organizations only argued with local government officials in the Adirondacks. Those days are over.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.