Statement by Chairman James M. Jeffords
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Hearing on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Implementation
Act of 2002 (S. 2118)
and the legislative proposal put forth by the Bush Administration
Good morning. I would like to thank our witnesses, several of whom flew from great distances twice, to participate in today’s hearing. I am sorry that we did not receive the consent required from the Minority Leader to proceed last Thursday. I know it meant a great deal of expense and inconvenience for several of you. Therefore, I greatly appreciate the dedication that has ensured your presence here today.
This Committee has an important task before it. Last May, the United States signed the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, otherwise known as the POPs Convention.
The Senate now has two jobs: to pass this treaty, as well as the POPS Protocol to the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), and the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (PIC); and to pass corresponding implementing legislation. This Committee must craft the implementing legislation that will allow the U.S. to domestically fulfill its obligations under these treaties.
Passage of these treaties is not in dispute. However, after reviewing the Administration’s implementing legislation, it seems the disagreement centers on whether we implement the POPs Convention in its entirety.
The POPs Convention is a landmark agreement that has brought the international community together to protect human health and the environment. The initial goal of the Convention is to phase out the “dirty dozen.” These twelve pesticides and industrial chemicals and other POPs resist degradation, are toxic to humans and wildlife, and travel across international boundaries.
Currently in the U.S., the registrations for nine of the twelve POPs have been canceled; and the manufacture of PCBs has been banned. However, other countries still use these substances.
They come back to us on our food, in our water, and through our air.
These POPs create a circle of pollution requiring a global solution. The POPs Convention provides this solution. And it is a solution that the United States has embraced. President Bush stated that the POPs Convention is an example of “the way environmental policy should work.” I agree with the President. That is why I am perplexed by the Administration’s POPs implementing proposal.
In addition to eliminating the “dirty dozen,” the Convention provides a process for the nomination, assessment, and addition of future POPs. This is important to understand. The POPs Convention was not intended to be a static agreement. The U.S. made an international commitment to eliminate all, current and future, POPs.
The “adding mechanism” -- that is, a mechanism to add POPs beyond the Adirty dozen@-- has never been disputed. In fact, LRTAP includes four additional POPs. Since LRTAP served as the precedent for the POPs Convention negotiations, it is reasonable to assume that these four POPs will be considered as the next likely additions to the POPs Convention. Industry, environmentalists, public interest organizations, and a bipartisan, bicameral group of congressional Members, have joined the Bush Administration in supporting swift Convention ratification. I expect to hear support for an “adding mechanism” from all our witnesses in today’s hearing.
My legislation, the POPs Implementation Act of 2002 (S.2118), mirrors the POPs Convention. Like the Administration’s proposal introduced by Senator Smith, my bill seeks to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). For example, both bills provide the Environmental Protection Agency with the authority to prohibit the manufacture of POPs for export.
However, only the legislation I have introduced takes the next step. It provides a process, consistent with the POPs Convention, for listing additional chemicals. The Administration proposal fails to include this mechanism.
I am concerned about the omission of the “adding mechanism.” It demonstrates an unwillingness by the Administration to fulfill the U.S. commitment to the POPs Convention. And it would severely slow down any future attempt to eliminate toxics.
The Administration is proposing that the U.S., once again, take the easy way out with respect to our international environmental commitments. If we follow the Administration’s example, we will be perceived by the international community as withdrawing from our commitment.
As a major producer of persistent, biological toxics, the U.S. has a responsibility to lead the world in eliminating known deadly pesticides and chemicals, as well as those yet to be manufactured.
And we have a responsibility to our own citizens.
Last week, I received a compelling letter from Alaskan Governor Tony Knowles. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), one of the twelve POPs, are not produced in Alaska. Yet, they are discovering low levels in the Arctic. Alaskan natives now fear the threat PCBs pose to their subsistence foods.
Governor Knowles agrees with me; he is concerned about a lengthy administrative and legislative process for adding future POPs.
I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues to pass legislation that completely implements the POPs Convention, as well as LRTAP and PIC.