Last week the Subcommittee heard testimony from the scientists who work on this issue. I think a fair summary of their statements is that, for ozone, there is an agreed upon range within which the EPA should adopt a standard. As I recall the testimony, it was also agreed that there is a significant problem with particulates, but there is some dispute among the CASAC members as to exactly what that standard should be. In fact, the CASAC panel itself did not recommend a particular standard.
I think it is also important to remind ourselves that we are not considering any statutory changes to the Clean Air Act. Rather, we are examining how EPA arrived at its proposal for ozone and particulate standards.
It is important for us here at the beginning of this long process to keep an open mind and not rush to judgment as to whether the initial proposed standards are proper or not. This is just the beginning.
Later on this year, the EPA will issue its final standards after listening to all the comments. Then we begin a long process of State implementation. This is when we will look at the cost of achieving the standards. By then new technologies and innovative programs will have been developed to reduce costs and help to meet the clean air standards.
I want to contrast this process with the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments. The Safe Drinking Water Amendments in 1986 were passed unanimously by this Congress and signed by President Reagan. But those were statutory changes to enact tight, new standards to help protect drinking water in our country.
It is true that in retrospect the statutory standards were not right, particularly for small systems. The requirements for monitoring and installing expensive treatment technology then available proved to be too much. Last year, Congress looked at these requirements and moved to change the provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Senator Kempthorne and myself and others worked very hard on that bill. I compliment everybody who worked on it because I think we came up with something that was pretty good.
But the Clean Air Act is fundamentally sound. What we are talking about what the proper standards for ozone and particulate matter should be. These are proposed standards. I urge all of us not to undermine the process. We should ask open-minded questions about how the EPA arrived at this standard and how many people they think will avoid harm with the proposed new standards.
There are still a lot of questions here and a lot of them are unanswered. I hope the Administrator will be able to answer some of them today. Until those answers are in, I think it is unwise to make judgments about the proposed standards before they are finalized.