Some "Neanderthals" in the United States never will acknowledge that acid rain is a crisis, but for the U.S. Senate majority leader to question its seriousness is stupid, a Canadian Cabinet member said Thursday.
Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.) said Wednesday there is no need for Congress to mandate new emission controls on coal-burning power factories because government studies indicate less than 1% of eastern U.S. lakes are acidified and no Western lakes are affected. Byrd told a Senate committee: "We are not facing an environmental Armageddon."
Canadian Environment Minister Tom McMillan disputed Byrd's remarks on Thursday, telling reporters: "We have a monumental task in getting official circles in the United States to see what acid rain is doing to themselves and to us. I don't think we should despair when an American senator says something stupid."
He added that Canada will "continue to press the case and maybe write off some of the Neanderthals who by definition will never be convinced."
Canada says that up to 70% of the harmful fallout that causes acid rain is blown northward from smokestacks and vehicle exhausts in the Ohio Valley and other parts of the United States.
Government officials say 14,000 Canadian lakes have died and its maple forests are being depleted because of acid rain.
Byrd said three bills before Congress asking for billions of dollars to curb emissions would lead to massive job disruption, worsen the U.S. trade deficit and cause electricity rates to soar, "all in the name of dealing with a crisis that does not exist."