John L. Kirkwood
Chief Executive Officer
American Lung Association
Committee on Environment and Public Works
November 15, 2001
Good morning. I am John Kirkwood, Chief Executive Officer of the American Lung Association, the nation’s oldest voluntary health association. Our mission is to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. The American Lung Association supports S. 556, the Clean Power Act. This comprehensive legislation will reduce and cap emissions of all four major air pollutants from power plants. We support the emission targets and timetables in S.556. Power plants are the largest single source of industrial pollution, emissions that seriously damage public health and the environment.
Pollution from power plants puts at risk the lives and health of millions of Americans. These pollutants contribute to the formation of smog and deadly fine particles, with well-documented and dangerous consequences to human health. More than 141 million Americans live in areas where the air is unhealthful to breathe because of ozone pollution. Power plants contribute significantly to the problem, especially in the Eastern United States. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that some 82 million people live in areas with unhealthful levels of fine particles. Let me briefly outline the human toll we are forced to pay.
The most egregious harm is premature death. According to a study conducted last fall, the coal-fired plants produce pollution that results in the premature deaths of an estimated 31,200 Americans each year. Based on other recent research, we know that the lives of these 31,200 people were shortened, not by days, but by anywhere from months to years. The causative factor is the emissions of tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are transformed into ultra fine particles in the air. These tiny particles are less than one-tenth the diameter of a single human hair. They are so tiny they bypass the body’s natural defenses and lodge deep within the lung, there to adversely affect human health. Studies demonstrate that infants and children, especially asthmatic children, the elderly, and those with heart or lung disease, are especially sensitive to the effects of fine particle pollution.
Death is not the only harm caused by these pollutants. They are responsible for an estimated 20,000 hospital admissions annually from respiratory and cardiac illnesses. Nitrogen oxides are a key ingredient in the formation of ozone, or smog, that blankets much of the United States during the summer months. Ozone created by emissions from these power plants caused an estimated 7,000 emergency rooms visits due to asthma and other breathing difficulties. That same ozone also triggered an estimated 600,000 asthma attacks. We also pay an economic price: these power plants caused the loss of an estimated 5 million work days, and forced people to curtail their routine activities for a total of another estimated 26 million days.
Recent research underscores the need to move forward to clean up these power plants. Six dozen new short-term studies confirm the effects of particle pollution on premature death, hospitalization, emergency room visits, respiratory and cardiac effects. I have cited them in the attachments to my testimony. Recently, more research has focused on the effect of long-term, repeated exposures to high levels of ozone. Three of these studies that are summarized below focused on the impact of the natural development of children’s lungs.
- A study of college freshmen found that lifetime ozone exposure was linked to a reduced ability to breathe.
- A 3-year study of 1,150 children suggests that long-term ambient ozone exposure might hinder the natural development of their lungs to function normally.
- A 10-year study of 3,300 school children found that girls with asthma, and boys who spent more time outdoors, suffered reduced ability to breathe in association with ozone. 
These studies present a compelling case for taking action as soon as possible.
Power plants also produce a number of other hazardous pollutants beyond sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Of most concern is mercury, known for inflicting permanent damage on the nervous and kidney systems, and especially threatening to fetal development and children’s mental health. Although emitted to the air, mercury most often is ingested when people eat fish from rivers and lakes where high levels of this toxic substance have settled in the water. Mercury accumulates in the fish, becoming increasingly toxic. Women of childbearing age and their children who eat such fish are the ones most at risk. A recent CDC study showed that ten percent of such women have blood levels of mercury that already places them and their unborn children at risk.
The weight of evidence against these pollutants is solid and increasing. These new studies lend a profound urgency to the national effort to reduce power plant emissions. Outside of the electric utility industry itself, few people would deny the need for dramatic additional reductions from power plants. For example, the attached maps demonstrate the obvious convergence between the location of power plants and high levels of fine particles. Preliminary fine particle monitoring data show many areas may violate the new PM 2.5 standard.
The American Lung Association supports S. 556 because it targets levels of pollutants that must be reduced from power plants and leaves the other provisions of the Clean Air Act in place. These two components ensure that power plants become cleaner and local air quality is protected. Reducing power plant emissions alone will not bring many areas in the country into compliance with the 8-hour ozone or the fine particle standard. Under S. 556, reductions we know we need from power plants will occur expeditiously.
The American Lung Association supports including carbon dioxide as part of the reductions package in S. 556. Many of the fossil fuel combustion processes that contribute carbon dioxide to the problem of global climate change also contribute to other forms of air pollution.
Indeed, it is our hope that S. 556 would promote new momentum toward increasing energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources that reduce or eliminate all four pollutants regulated under the bill. Instead, we are seeing hundreds of new power plants proposed throughout the nation. Even if these plants were built to use natural gas with state-of-the-art pollution controls, they still will add to air pollution unless they replace older dirtier plants.
The rush for new power plants also demonstrates why we need to maintain the existing provisions of the Clean Air Act. Under the current law, these plants would be subject to “New Source Review” requirements that would ensure their emissions did not increase local levels of air pollution. To ensure that no one adds to the burden of air pollution in a community, companies seeking to build or expand in a non-attainment area must obtain offsets from nearby pollution sources. If these plants were proposed in areas that meet the standards, other provisions of the Act would ensure that the air quality does not significantly deteriorate. In this way, local air quality can be protected. Under the approach advocated by Assistant EPA Administrator Holmstead, the Clean Air Act’s protective measures would be eliminated. As long as a new power plant had purchased sufficient emissions reduction “allowances,” no matter how distant the source that generated them, it would be immune from the requirements that currently protect the health of the local community.
The explicit recognition by S. 556 of the sanctity of the Clean Air Act is the cornerstone of the American Lung Association’s support. Subsection 132 (e) states, “This section does not affect the applicability of any other requirement of this Act.” The American Lung Association opposes replacing the New Source Review provisions or any other provisions of the existing Clean Air Act with a power plant emissions cap and trade program.
Currently, Title IV, the Acid Rain Program, supplements the other Clean Air Act requirements. Any new program to reduce power plant emissions should also supplement the Clean Air Act. That is exactly what S. 556 does. We note that state and local air regulators supported the continuation of New Source Review. In their comments to the EPA, they remarked, “we believe that the NSR requirements under the Clean Air Act are an essential tool, critical to state and local air pollution control agencies’ ability to attain and maintain the health and welfare standards mandated in the Act.”
The American Lung Association is committed to ensuring Americans can breathe clean air. Frankly, the efforts under existing provisions of the Clean Air Act are moving too slowly. The new national ambient air quality standards for ozone and PM 2.5 set in 1997 are still tied up in litigation and remain unimplemented. Despite that, in recent years, landmark regulations that clean up cars, SUVs, and heavy-duty diesel vehicles and their fuels have been finalized. When implemented, these regulations represent important progress on the mobile source side of the air pollution equation. EPA should also move ahead to clean up non-road diesel vehicles, such as construction equipment.
We now need to address the stationary source side of the problem. S. 556 will allow us to do that in a comprehensive way, requiring the number one source of industrial air pollution, coal-fired power plants, to do their share to help us all breathe easier.
 American Lung Association. State of the Air 2000. May 2001.
 EPA, map presented at Stakeholders’ Conference, October 2001.
 Abt Associates, Inc. with ICF Consulting, and E.H. Pechan Associates, Inc. Prepared for Clean Air Task Force. The Particulate-Related Health Benefits of Reducing Power Plant Emissions. October 2000. Used to develop: Clean Air Task Force. Death, Disease, and Dirty Power: Mortality and Health Damage Due to Air Pollution from Power Plants. October 2000.
 Schwartz, Joel. Is There Harvesting in the Association of Airborne Particles with Daily Deaths and Hospital Admissions. Epidemiology, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp 56-61, January 2001; Brunekreef, Burt. Air Pollution and Life Expectancy: Is There a Relation? Occup Environ Med 1997 Nov; 54(11):781-4; Pope, C.A. III, Epidemiology of Fine Particulate Air Pollution and Human Health: Biological Mechanisms and Who’s at Risk? Environ Health Perspect 108 (suppl 4):713-723 (2000).
 Many studies show children, the elderly, and persons with respiratory and/or coronary disease as particularly vulnerable to PM. The following are a few of the most recent: Goldberg, M.S., Bailar, J.C. III, Burnett, R.T., Brook, J.R., Tamblyn, R., Bonvalot, Y., Ernst, P., Flegel, K.M., Singh, R.K., and Valois, M-F. Identifying Subgroups of the General Population That May be Susceptible to Short-Term Increases in Particulate Air Pollution: A Time-Series Study in Montreal, Quebec. Health Effects Institute, Research Report Number 97, October 2000; Delfino, R.J., Murphy-Moulton, A.M., Burnett, R.T., Brook, J.R., and Becklake, M.R. Effects of Air Pollution on Emergency Room Visits for Respiratory Illnesses in Montreal, Quebec. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1997; 155:568-576.; Zanobetti, A., Schwartz, J., and Gold, D. Are There Sensitive Subgroups for the Effects of Airborne Particles? Environmental Health Perspectives Vol. 108, No. 9, pp. 841-845, September 2000.; Gauderman, J.W., McConnell, R., Gilliland, F., London, S., Thomas, D., Avol, E., Vora, H., Berhane, K., Rappaport, E.B., Lurmann, F., Margolis, H.G., and Peters, J. Association between Air Pollution and Lung Function Growth in Southern California Children. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Vol. 162. pp 1383-1390, 2000.
 Künzli, N., Lurmann, F., Segal, M., Ngo, L., Balmes, J., and Tager, I.B. Association between Lifetime Ambient Ozone Exposure and Pulmonary Function in College Freshmen—Results of a Pilot Study. Environmental Research, Vol. 72, pp. 8-23, 1997.
 Frischer, T., Studnicka, M., Gartner, C., Tauber, E., Horak, F, Veiter, A., Spengler, J., Kühr, J., and Urbanek, R. Lung Function Growth and Ambient Ozone: A Three-Year Population Study in School Children. Am J Respir Crit Care Med, Vol. 160, pp. 390-396, 1999.; Gauderman, J.W., McConnell, R., Gilliland, F., London, S., Thomas, D., Avol, E., Vora, H., Berhane, K., Rappaport, E.B., Lurmann, F., Margolis, H.G., and Peters, J. Association between Air Pollution and Lung Function Growth in Southern California Children. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Vol. 162. pp 1383-1390, 2000.
 Peters, J.M., Avol, E., Gauderman, W.J., Linn, W.S., Navidi, W., London, S.J., Margolis, H., Rappaport, E., Vora, H., Gong, H., and Thomas, D.C. A Study of Twelve Southern California Communities with Differing Levels and Types of Air Pollution. II. Effects on Pulmonary Function. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Vol. 159, pp. 7680775, 1999.
 Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological profile for mercury. 1999; National Research Council, Toxicological Effects of Methylmercury, 1999
. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration. US Environmental Protection Agency. National Energy Technology Laboratory, Dept of Energy. National Marine Fisheries Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. National Center for Health Statistics; National Center for Environmental Health, CDC. Bood and Hair Mercury Levels in Young Children and Women of Childbearing Age – United States, 1999. CDC, MMWR, March 2, 2001
 Paul, J., on behalf of State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators, and O’Sullivan, W., on behalf of Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials. Letter entered as comments in EPA Docket #A-2001-19, New Source Review 90-Day Review Background Paper, June 27, 2001.