Simply put, this bill will save lives. The Clean Power Act will result in major health benefits for Americans across the country, including prevention of an estimated 19,000 premature deaths from sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide alone.
Nearly all lung diseases are made worse by air pollution. Recent studies have confirmed that smog and fine particles place public health at great risk. A study published this year in Lancet showed a connection between high levels of ozone and the development of asthma in children. Another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association established a correlation between fine particle pollution and increased risk of death from lung cancer and cardio-pulmonary disease.
Just in the past several months there have been five major studies published linking air pollution to lung cancer, birth defects, heart attack, and asthma–including pediatric asthma.
Children in some areas are safer inside the house on a sunny day, rather than outside where they may be exposed to pollutant levels that are the equivalent of breathing second hand smoke.
Fossil-fuel based power plants are one of the leading sources of air pollution. >In 1998, they accounted for 64% of the sulfur dioxide, 26% of the nitrogen oxides, 35% of the mercury, and 37% of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere in the United States.
Senator Jeffords’ Clean Power Act, S. 556, goes a long way toward sensibly addressing the threat posed by the dirtiest power plants in this country.
The health benefits of the Clean Power Act are clear. According to EPA estimates, air quality improvements at levels in the Clean Power Act will result in health benefits worth an estimated $154 billion annually. The compliance costs were estimated by EPA at $10 billion a year.
The Bush Administration has delayed release of its "Clear Skies" Initiative–but enough details have been released to demonstrate that this proposal weakens current Clean Air laws.
Carbon dioxide is not even included in this proposal -- which breaks a promise that the President made during the campaign.
Last week, however, the Bush Administration finally admitted it has a climate change problem.
In a new EPA report to the United Nations, the Administration said: "There is general agreement that the observed warming is real and has been particularly strong within the past 20 years. Human-induced warming and associated sea-level rises are expected to continue through the 21st century. Secondary effects include increases in rainfall rates and increased susceptibility of semiarid regions to drought.
This is not news. The National Academy of Sciences and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have said this for years. What is news is that President Bush has finally admitted it.
By coincidence, scientists last week also released the findings of the most comprehensive regional climate change model ever completed, which provides detailed models of the temperature and precipitation impacts on California. These scientists noted that California is believed to be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Their peer-reviewed climate model predicts by the year 2050 California will face higher average temperatures every month of the year in every part of the State. The average temperature in June in the Sierra Nevada mountains, for instance, will increase by 11 degrees Fahrenheit.
The snowpack in the Sierra, which is a vital source of water in the State, is expected to drop by 13 feet and to have melted entirely nearly two months earlier than it does now. This means that the precious water we now rely upon for agriculture, drinking water, and other purposes will no longer be available.
Yet despite the frightening predictions in this study, the EPA report, and many others, President Bush fails to offer a plan for action. The Administration’s EPA report notes that we will simply have to learn to "adapt" to climate change.
To me, this is an incredible abdication of responsibility and provides further justification for the Senate to step in where the President won’t.
The Clean Power Act simply establishes a standard that the first Bush Administration committed to (and the Senate ratified) as part of the UN Convention on Global Climate Change at Rio. We have done little to fulfill that commitment. This bill would help us to begin to remedy that.
I look forward to working with the Chairman to help move this bill forward as quickly as possible.