Statement of Senator Jeff Sessions
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Hearing July 24, 1997

I would like to thank Senator Inhofe for agreeing to hold this hearing today to discuss the EPA's plans to implement the new standards for ozone and particulate matter. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA must set air quality standards based on human health benefits with an "adequate margin of safety".

This committee has held five hearings to discuss these changes to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and particulate matter. During those hearings we heard from members of the EPA's own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) who cast serious doubt regarding the EPA's ability to set reasonable standards based on the science which had been conducted. The EPA was sued by the American Lung Association and was ordered by the court to review the standard for particulate matter by July 15th , 1997. In my experience as Attorney General for the state of Alabama I understand the force of a court order, but I have at times witnessed instances where government agencies and special interest groups have used lawsuits as a tool to promote their own controversial agendas.

According to the CASAC closure paper for particulate matter "the deadline did not allow adequate time to analyze, integrate, interpret, and debate the available data on this very complex issue". In addition, the CASAC panel expressed a concern regarding the existence of a cause and effect relationship between particulate matter and morbidity and mortality stating " the diversity of opinion reflects the many unanswered questions and uncertainties associated with establishing causality of the association between PM2.5 and mortality".

For ozone, the CASAC panel expressed concern about the EPA's ability to set a science based standard and stated in their November 30, 1995 closure paper that "there is no threshold concentration for the onset of biological responses due to exposure to ozone above background concentrations....and selecting a standard at the lowest observable effects level and then providing an adequate margin of safety is no longer possible".

Despite these concerns the EPA has set new, very stringent standards for both ozone and particulate matter, and I hope today we can learn more about the very real human costs of implementation and discuss some of the control measures the EPA envisions to meet these new standards.

According to the Tennessee Valley Authority's detailed comments on the proposed standards for ozone and particulate matter, the Tennessee Valley Authority is likely to have to raise power rates by 11 percent, costing between 40,000 and 50,000 jobs for the region to order to comply with the new standards. The TVA estimates that the total annual costs to comply with the new standards is $3 billion.

The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that the total costs of implementing the new standards nationwide will cost between $6 and $9 billion. At three billion dollars, the emissions control measures which are likely to be required of the Tennessee Valley Authority alone account for nearly half the EPA estimate. Clearly, the national cost estimates the EPA suggests are greatly underestimated.

I support efforts to improve our environment and protect public health. I am pleased that current laws are causing our air to become cleaner every year. The problem we face is that the testimony presented previously to this committee suggests the new standards may have little, if any, impact on overall public health because of their far reaching adverse economic implications. We know that poverty is a very real contributor to poor health.

Given the limited resources this country has to expend, it is important to remember there are choices which must be made to ensure our efforts result in the greatest benefits to public health. On April 29th, this Committee had the opportunity to hear testimony from Dr. Christopher Grande, an emergency room doctor and trauma specialist. Dr. Grande made the compelling point that public health priorities must be set when choices are made to expend limited resources to protect public health.

Dr. Grande pointed out that we know over 150,000 people die each year from injuries. These are not "premature" deaths or those suffering from chronic respiratory illnesses, but individuals of all ages and levels of health, some in the prime of their lives. Dr. Grande went on to cite over 25 studies which indicate that between 20,000 and 25,000 of the Americans who die each year from injury could be saved if regional trauma centers were put in place across the country -- at a fraction of the cost necessary to implement the new air standards.

As a new member of the Senate and this committee, these are the concerns that trouble me. Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing, we learn more at each hearing, and I look forward now to hearing from our distinguished witness, Assistant Administrator Mary Nichols of the EPA's office of Air and Radiation.