Published December 1983 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Progress on Acid Rain Scientists recently appeared before the Senate Environment Committee to talk about acid rain, its possible origins, causes, and effects. What came out of that hearing underlined my position that scientists still disagree on whether strict acid rain controls are needed or would work. I also testified at that hearing, saying that West Virginia's economy would be severely damaged if new controls were clamped on coal-burning facilities. In my testimony, I cited a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences that made clear that scientists do not know if steep reductions in sulphur dioxide emissions from Midwestern and Appalachian coal-fired powerplants would really protect sensitive areas of the Northeast. I have repeatedly criticized that suggested approach, which would cost thousands of jobs, boost electric bills, and devastate the economies of West Virginia and other states, with no guarantee that such limits on sulphur dioxide emissions would help in the battle against acid precipitation. My approach, which I outlined for the committee, is to speed up the federal study now underway on acid rain, so that scientific information on its causes and effects would be available in 1987 instead of 1992. I have a bill in the Senate that would accomplish that, and that would, in the meantime, make grants available to ease any adverse effects of acidity on lakes and streams. I believe the scientific confusion about acid rain, and the calls by some of us for a cautious approach in dealing with it, have slowed the drive to impose hasty and perhaps unwise and ineffective restrictions on sulphur dioxide emissions. In that respect, we have made progress in fending off potentially damaging, and possibly useless, requirements that could hurt West Virginia and other coal states.