At the outset, I want to compliment the EPA for requesting an extension of the comment period an additional 60 days. To quote Senator Chafee in his letter to Molly Clark of the American Lung Association, "this is the largest single regulatory proposal ever made by EPA." With that in mind, and with virtually every industry in America affected by these new standards, it is imperative that additional time be allowed to properly address the impacts these requirements will place on the public.
As we all know, the Clean Air Act (CAA) requires the EPA to identify and set standards for pollutants which potentially threaten public health. Particulate matter and ozone are two of six pollutants for which the EPA has developed National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Currently, we have a PM-10 standard which regulates particles 1O microns in diameter and smaller and an allowable level of .12 parts per million cubic feet of ozone. It's important to note that according to the EPA's own reports, these pollutants have been significantly reduced over the past ten years and will continue to decline as the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments are implemented.
However, the EPA now wants to regulate particulates of 2.5 microns and smaller and initiate a standard of .08 parts per million for ozone. I am skeptical that lowering the NAAQS for particulate matter and ozone will actually achieve the level of protections stated by the EPA. The panelists we will hear from today are experts in the fields of science, health and medicine. I look forward to their testimony and views to see if in fact the EPA's proposed rule is necessary to protect public health.
Mr. Chairman, one of the most troubling aspects of this process is EPA's rush to judgment to implement their proposed PM and ozone regulations before we truly know which particulates cause damaging health effects. I want to make sure that principles of sound science are being applied. As you know, this is a very technical issue and we should be confident that the choices we are making will get to the heart of protecting public health. Unfortunately, I do not believe that has been established. In fact, the EPA's own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) stated that "our understanding of the health effects of particulates is far from complete."
I am also concerned about the geographic areas that will be thrown into nonattainment as a result of these standards. The EPA projects that 336 counties nationwide will be in nonattainment as a result of the new ozone rule and 170 counties will be in nonattainment due to the proposed PM2.5 revision. It's no secret that many parts of the country are having problems meeting current emissions reductions. If these requirements are implemented they could actually postpone efforts to achieve attainment status.
Mr. Chairman, we all want to protect public health and the environment. In fact, it was the Bush Administration that passed the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 and a Republican Congress that passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, the most environmentally friendly farm bill in history and legislation to strengthen food safety laws -- all last year.
However, the jury is still out on whether there is sufficient data at this time to decide what changes should be made to the PM and ozone standards. Nonetheless, it is important to have the best scientific data available to us. I compliment the Chairman for holding this hearing and look forward to hearing from the witnesses that have been invited to testify before us today. Thank you.