STATEMENT BY SENATOR BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON CLEAN AIR, WETLANDS, AND CLIMATE CHANGE, COMMITTEE ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS ON THE FEASIBILITY OF REDUCING MERCURY AND CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS, PURSUANT TO S. 556
Mr. Chairman, first off, I would like to recognize and welcome a fellow Coloradan, Dr. Michael Durham of ADA Environmental Solutions of Littleton.
Mr. Chairman, Senator Voinovich, this is the third hearing relating to S. 556, and this time we focus on perhaps the most controversial aspects of the bill - whether technology even exists that would allow power producers to meet the aggressive carbon dioxide and mercury emissions reduction schedule in S. 556.
I am deeply concerned over the process in formulating this dramatic and sweeping legislation. This is a major change in policy that should be carefully reviewed. We have had two hearings at the full committee level. However, today, we hold a hearing on the most contentious issues only at the Subcommittee level. Second, we are going to hold one member's meeting next week, and then the majority intends to mark-up this bill. I am an optimist, but I am also a realist. Do we seriously think that given our members' strong disagreement on S. 556, that we can reach consensus in just one meeting? I hope that my friends supporting S. 556 come around, but I imagine that we will need to work together a bit more.
Again, this is the third hearing on S. 556, and this is the third hearing where I state, in no uncertain terms, my strong opposition. This bill is a one-size fits all approach that detrimentally affects the Western United States.
Fundamentally, the West differs from the East in several ways, and any legislation should reflect those differences. Yet, this bill ignores them completely. Again, it is important to note that this bill would require significant reductions in NOX where no problem exists, and similar command and control SOX reductions on a very minor Western problem.
Mercury is recognized as a harmful pollutant. However, we aren't sure how much is harmful and whether adequate technology exists to deal with it.
In December 2000, the EPA found cause for mercury reductions, but lacked sufficient information as to the degree of reductions. Today, the Agency is in the process of gathering scientific data in order to develop the proposed rule, set to be published by December 2003. The Agency charged with Enforcing the Environment needed additional time and study to make an educated decision based on clear science.
However, the distinguished sponsors of S. 556 somehow know the proper reduction levels with such certainty that they make it a part of their bill.
This bill's approach to mercury reductions mirror those taken for NOX and SOX, by completely ignoring Western differences. Mercury emissions from Western coal-fired plants is about 40 percent lower than the national average. Yet, S. 556 would require the same level of reduction as if the West's mercury emissions were much higher. Such an effect can only be a result of two things: (1) S. 556 completely ignored Western differences, or (2) S. 556 penalizes good actors in the West.
I am sure that proponents of S. 556 did not intend to penalize the West. Therefore, we can only assume that they ignored the critical differences of the West.
Well, I am here to tell you that the West isn't ignoring this bill. The State of Colorado opposes this bill, Xcel Energy opposes this bill, Colorado's municipal and cooperatively owned utilities oppose this bill, the Western Governor's Association oppose this bill, and I oppose this bill.
S. 556 also includes significant reductions in carbon dioxide in order to curb global climate change. First, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant and should not be treated as one. NOX, SOX, and mercury can affect people's health within their lifetime. Global warming cannot. Carbon dioxide's inclusion in a "multi-pollutant bill" amounts to an obstacle to doing what we all want to do, and that is to make sure that we have clean, safe air.
Second, the Constitution's Foreign Affairs Clause ensures that the nation speaks with one voice in international affairs. Our Commander-in-Chief has taken a position on the Kyoto Protocol, and is developing a strategy to deal with global warming. I look forward to the Administration's position on the issue.
Last, the carbon dioxide reductions called for in this bill would disproportionately impact the West and my state of Colorado in particular. Eighty-two percent of Colorado's electricity comes from coal-fired plants. The incredible costs associated with S. 556's carbon dioxide reductions is tantamount to a fuel switching mandate, placing everyone at the mercy of natural gas price swings. Whether or not fuel switching is the intent this de facto result would hurt my state and ratepayers across the nation.
Both parties agree that energy security is a top priority. We should not implement uncertain policies that would effectively decrease our energy supply unless the gains are sure.
In sum, S. 556 is a short-sighted approach based on incomplete information that completely ignores Western differences and even penalizes good actors.
I hope that the majority reschedules the mark-up of this bill, and takes some of the West's concerns to heart. Thank you.