Attorney General’s office learns about environmental issues

The New York State Attorney General’s office is taking a more active role in Central New York’s environmental issues, a state official said Thursday.

Peter Lehner, chief of the attorney general’s Environmental Protection Bureau, met with more than 20 people representing environmental agencies from Central New York last Wednesday, said Winthrop Thurlow, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Syracuse Regional Office.

“We really heard a whole range of issues,” Thurlow said. “We wanted to hear from theses groups about what’s important to them and also provide information that the attorney general’s office has been doing.”

Among the projects of the attorney general’s office has been attempting to stop coal-burning power plants from operating because of the plants’ contributions to environmental problems, Thurlow said.

“Our findings were emissions from those plants increased substantially and contributed to acid rain problems in New York,” Thurlow said. “We have entered into settlements with three utility companies.”

The office has also brought lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for proposed changes to the Clean Air and Clean Water Act this year, Thurlow said.

“We spoke about the Onondaga Lake Cleanup, acid rain, concerns about global warming, animal rights and the Midland issue,” Thurlow said. “It was an opportunity for groups concerned about the environment to voice their concerns.”

The meeting was conducted at the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Among those in attendance were the local Sierra Club, Syracuse Neighbors United and Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Thurlow said.

“(The attorney general’s) office was extraordinarily educated,” said Dereth Glance, program coordinator for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment in Syracuse. “It’s important the state takes more of an interest in environmental issues in (Central New York).”

“It’s headed in the right direction,” said Martin Sage of the local Sierra Club chapter.
With concerns in mind, the attorney general’s office can now move towards a more active role, Thurlow said.

“We have a good grasp of what’s going on now,” Thurlow said.

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