Testimony of Governor Frank Keating, Oklahoma
Chairman, Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission
Before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property and Nuclear Safety
March 3, 1997

Mr. Chairman, Thank you for the opportunity to testify on an issue that is of great importance to the citizens of Oklahoma and the nation. The comments I make today are given on behalf of the state of Oklahoma and as chairman of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), an organization representing the governors of 29 oil and gas producing states. I have also been asked to submit the National Governors' Association viewpoints, which attached to the written portion of my testimony.

Along with the governors of our nation's other 49 states, I have a strong commitment to clean air standards that protect public health, and believe the needs of Americans who suffer from respiratory ailments must be addressed. At the same time, the other governors and I recognize that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's current proposal on ozone and particulate matter standards would have significant costs and impact the ability of states and local officials to meet other urgent priorities. A balance must be reached between the need to protect public health and the danger of unnecessary, overly expensive regulation.

The issue before us today goes beyond whether tightening of federal air quality standards for ozone and fine particles is necessary. I question whether the Environmental Protection Agency should impose such potentially devastating standards without providing data that clearly support the change.

The proposed change in federal standards for ozone probably would cause Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and possibly Lawton and several other more rural areas, to fall into non-attainment with the Clean Air Act. This is despite the countless hours and millions of dollars spent by our state and local governments, businesses and citizens to comply with current federal standards.

In fact, Oklahoma can be proud of the accomplishments we have made in cleaning the air of our state. Our Department of Environmental Quality and local entities have done an excellent job of coordinating efforts, and the progress is impressive. Our pollution level measurements statewide have declined significantly. Nationally, air pollution has declined over the past ten years, even while the population has increased.

EPA is now seeking to enact the toughest air quality standards in our nation's history, with enormous economic and employment consequences. Our scientists, and many scientists who advise the EPA on this matter, question whether the scientific evidence supports this proposal. Oklahoma's larger cities, which are right now competing for new businesses and industries, would find recruitment of new employers difficult or impossible with the threat of noncompliance with federal air standards hanging over their heads. The effect on Oklahoma's largest economic contributors, including the oil and gas industry, would be profound.

Expressing a concern about inadequate time for state governments and citizens to respond to these sweeping new regulations, the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the National Governors' Association called on the EPA to extend the public comment period on this proposal. We are pleased that the EPA responded to this request, but "back to the drawing board" might be the more appropriate response of EPA at this point.

In addition to the substantial resources states must commit to developing new State Implementation Plans for these new standards and the chilling effect on business growth and investment, communities in nonattainment of Clean Air standards would be subject to significantly increased regulations. States would be threatened with the withholding of federal highway funds for nonattainment areas if they fail to implement regulatory action.

As governor, I also note the lack of public demand for these new standards. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has indicated that overwhelming public support in the form of significant individual lifestyle changes and sacrifices, would be needed to help these cities attain the proposed federal standards.

More significantly, whether these new standards would afford significant health benefits is a matter of great debate. As the governor of this state, I care very deeply about the health of its citizens. Oklahoma's environmental experts at Department of Environmental Quality have reviewed the proposal and are concerned that the available scientific studies indicate these new standards may not offer the additional health benefits claimed by the EPA.

The EPA's research does not take into account major scientific uncertainties. The scientific community - even the EPA's own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee - is not in agreement as what impact, if any, fine particulate matter may have on human health at these levels of exposure. The data are weak at best.

Ozone research is another scientific "gray area." Current ground level ozone standards - before these new standards are enacted - are already near the level at which ozone occurs naturally. Increasing these already tight standards may or may not have any benefit, and certainly would carry a heavy cost.

There are no answers from the EPA on concerns regarding the validity of the scientific basis for these proposed standards. Although the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee approved the documents upon which the standards are based, they were highly critical of the particulate matter scientific documents and remained neutral on the ozone documents. In fact, the committee said "There is no bright line which distinguishes any of the proposed standards as being significantly more protective of public health."

Another element of this rush to judgment I find shocking is that nobody, outside of the researchers who performed the studies upon which EPA is basing this proposal, has apparently been given access to the raw data. his is not proper public policy.

I support measures that provide reasonable environmental and health protection, but in this case I believe the Environmental Protection Agency simply has not finished its homework. Rather than taking the stance that "we are all in this together" and using innovative non-regulatory approaches to help communities continue to achieve environmental goals - as the states have done - the EPA has adopted the familiar command-and-control approach.

A recent survey commissioned by the Competitive Enterprise Institute indicated 72 percent of the 1,000 people surveyed believe that state or local governments should determine what air pollution control measures are used. In addition, 65 percent believed that state or local government would do better at environmental protection than the federal government.

I agree. Since 1935 the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission has acted to protect the fundamental rights of states to regulate their resources and make determinations that affect the health and safety of their citizens. Federal agency interference time and again has given us the type of environmental policy we see proposed today -- short-sighted bureaucratic decisions driven by political rhetoric rather than sound science.

The chilling effect these proposed standards would have on the domestic petroleum industry would be far-reaching. These restrictions would significantly impede the ability of oil and gas producers to provide the energy the United States needs. As the majority of oil and gas operators in the IOGCC states are small business men and women, I urge Congress to carefully review EPA's proposed standards under the new Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act.

Unless the Environmental Protection Agency can meet its responsibility of providing clear and compelling evidence that there is a need to impose these more stringent standards and justification for the financial burden that would result, I would stand in opposition to them.