STATEMENT OF CHRISTOPHER S. BOND
JOINT EPW-JUDICIARY HEARING
ON EPA'S NEW SOURCE REVIEW PROGRAM
Tuesday, July 16, 2002, 10:00 am, SD-106
Thank you, to both of the chairmen, for holding this joint EPW and Judiciary Committee hearing on the New Source Review Clean Air program. Unfortunately, for those who actually care about clean air, and not just litigation, policies, and regulations, you will be sorely disappointed.
So why are we hear today? I think it may have more to do with factors other than improving air quality. For the information of my Judiciary Committee colleagues, the Environment Committee last month scuttled further electric utility pollution cuts in NOx, SOx, and mercury in order to make a political point about carbon dioxide.
Today, we will spend time discussing an obscure program that was just an afterthought in the technical amendments of 1977. We won't even discuss the successful part of the program which ensures that new facilities will not further harm regional air quality.
The Clean Air Act has brought America major air quality improvements. Since peaking in 1975, electric utility air emissions of S02 are now 5 million tons lower per year. In response to the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, utilities cut NOx 2 million tons per year. The major NSR enforcement cases begun by the last administration in 1999 are responsible for none of these air pollution decreases.
The recent enforcement cases are most striking in that they do not involve a single violation of an air emissions permit. Many, especially in the environmental regulation community, like to measure damage to the environment in terms of pollution discharge or emissions permit violations. If that is the test, then these cases are of no value to the environment.
Not one case alleges that a utility exceeded its government permitted air emissions levels. These are all construction permits we are fighting over. Most cases involve only potential increases in emissions levels. Those plants which increased their actual emissions were still below the levels allowed by the government in their emissions permits.
The other point that amazes me about this debate is how the greatest benefit of NSR reform, energy efficiency, suddenly has no value to the environment. We spent much of the Spring in the Senate debating the energy bill. One of the most important issues for environmental advocates was promoting greater energy efficiency. The more efficiently we generate and use energy, the less damage we do to the environment.
However, advocates of the NSR program abandon their environmental friends' energy efficiency arguments. Fuel efficiency improvements recommended for cars, trucks and air conditioners now shouldn't apply to electric utilities.
We will also hear charges today that the current administration is halting enforcement suits and rolling back environmental protections. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I have a quote here from a new administrator before she took office. One of her pledges was to, "examine ways to simplify and streamline the New Source Review process [and] to reduce chances of legal challenge." No, this wasn't Governor Whitman; this was Carol Browner.
This shouldn't be surprising since all of the rules this administration announced in June that it will finalize were proposed under the Clinton Administration by the Carol Browner EPA. Either the rollbacks began in 1996 under the last administration or the substance isn't so bad after all. It's just the new messenger they don't like.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration continues to bring more NSR cases. EPA announced just last week that it filed a notice of violation for alleged NSR violations against two coal-fired plants in Colorado. That is hardly taking the cop off the beat.
I urge my colleagues who are serious about improving air quality to get back to the real work at hand -- passing a three-pollutant bill that will bring a new generation of air pollution cuts for nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides and mercury. I look forward to working with my colleagues on that measure.