The Clean Air Act is a cornerstone of this nation's environmental protection program and one of the crowning achievements of this Committee. Like most members, I am pleased that while our nation's population has grown, our air, in most instances, has started to get cleaner. Nationwide, air pollution from carbon monoxide, lead, particulates, and sulfur dioxide are down significantly.
In my home state of Nevada, home to the fastest growing city in the United States, Las Vegas, the maximum levels of carbon monoxide have fallen 35 percent in the last 10 years. So-called unhealthy days have fallen from more than 50 per year to less than 10.
Does this mean the air in Las Vegas is perfect. No. Far from it.
What it means is that we are making progress.
That progress is a direct result of previous Congresses and the EPA showing leadership when faced with a lack of absolute scientific certainty.
We are faced with a similar lack of certainty today. However, it is important that EPA and the scientific community clearly demonstrate that these new standards are justified. The processes we have in place to set national air pollution control policy has served this nation very well. It can be a long and difficult process, but it is one that has allowed is to make real progress during the last 27 years. Today's hearing is an attempt to make sure that the next steps proposed by EPA are ones that will net us continued progress.
With that said, Ms. Browner, I join with my colleagues in welcoming you here today. Before getting to the big question of the day, I have one small item to discuss. My state's Governor, Bob Miller, is currently Chairman of the National Governor's Association. In that capacity, he wrote to you recently requesting that you extend the comment period on these regulations to allow all of the states and municipalities adequate time to review and comment on the regulations.
I thank you for asking the court for just such an extension last week. I understand they have granted a three week extension of both the comment period and the final promulgation date for the particulate matter rule. I am sure the extra time will help the folks we are expecting to help us implement these rules understand them a little better. Again, thank you.
Ms. Browner, although all of us sitting up here are going to ask it a slightly different way, it seems to me that the bottom line reads: Is what you are doing necessary to protect public health with an adequate amount of safety?"
We have heard a great deal in recent weeks about the role of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee and what they did and did not say. We have also heard many conflicting views about where science stops and where policy decisions start.
It is my hope that you will be able to shed some light on these issues.
Additionally, I am a Westerner. I also represent the fastest growing state in what is perhaps the fastest growing region in the nation. We are often concerned that the federal government, in setting national policies, adopts a one-size-fits-all approach that does suit the needs of the states, localities, and people living in the West. In your remarks, or as a follow-up, I would like for you to address how, if at all, you have incorporated the unique concerns of Western states into your proposal.
think I speak for the whole Committee when I say that, when all is said and done, we are hoping to see strong factual and scientific conclusions leading to reasonable policy judgments by you and the rest of the professionals at EPA we have charged with making just these sorts of hard decisions. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.