Statement of Senator James Jeffords
on S. 556, the Clean Power Act
Today, the Committee will hear testimony from Federal and State witnesses on S. 556, the Clean Power Act. We have asked them to tell us about the impact of this legislation on the environment, air quality goals, the economy, and energy supply. We have also asked for their suggestions for any improvements or amendments to the bill.
Unfortunately, because of transportation delays, my friend Governor Howard Dean of Vermont will be unable to testify at today's hearing.
I am hopeful that he might be able to make it to the next Committee hearing on multi-pollutant which is scheduled for Thursday, November 15th. However, I'm pleased to welcome another long time protector of the environment and the public's health, Congressman Sherwood Boehlert. He is the Chairman of the House Science Committee and a principal cosponsor, with Congressman Waxman, of the House companion to S. 556.
This is a busy day, so I will keep my remarks short and encourage everyone to do the same. Since the horrific events of September 11th and the more recent terrorism in these very buildings and around Washington, our world seems increasingly uncertain. Places we thought were secure now appear unsafe. Even the air we breathe can't be taken for granted.
My brief trip into the Hart Building last Thursday showed me how hard it is to walk around while only exhaling. I don't mean to make light of the anthrax threat. It has caused great dislocation, inconvenience and several deaths.
This is a serious and acute threat to our nation's capital and its people. The response was a little disorganized at first, since who could envision or predict the evil insanity of terrorists willing to use such weapons.
Now, however, Americans are rising to the challenge. They are using their ingenuity to combat the health threat. And, our vast scientific know-how is being employed to track down these dangerous people.
We are good at responding to short-term threats. Unfortunately, we don't do as well with the long-term threats that require coordinated planning over the years, like global warming or acid rain.
However, we know the world is warming and that manmade emissions are primarily responsible for that warming. If we don't swiftly and radically change our behavior, Boston's weather will probably become much more like Richmond's within the next 50 years.
We also know that power plant pollution contributes to acid rain, causes lung diseases and premature mortality and a host of other problems. These are sometimes hard to see because they take longer to clearly manifest than the effects of biological weapons.
However, like this current plague, once the symptoms are full blown, a cure is costly and difficult at best. We would be better off to take actions now to avert catastrophe in the future. I am appreciative that the Energy Information Administration has provided the Committee with the analyses that we requested in a timely fashion. Late yesterday, we finally received the EPA's analysis after much delay. Unfortunately, it's late arrival gave us very little time to review it.
If we're really going to meet the multi-pollutant challenge, I hope there will be more cooperation and openness than has occurred thus far. It will also take a much healthier dose of optimism about our ability to engineer solutions to achieve ambitious goals.
Unfortunately, both analyses fail to address perhaps the most fundamental matter - What are the costs of full implementation of the existing statutory and regulatory requirements, including the mercury rule and fine particulate standard?
Without that information, it's impossible to determine the true incremental costs of any additional control requirements. That's the same question that the Committee asked the Administrator two months ago, with no response.
I am a patient man, as my colleagues know. I am also respectful of the situation that the White House and the Administration now faces.
But, the time for delay is over and important work should resume. Climate change, in particular, must be addressed.
The industrialized nations of the world are meeting in Marrakech right now to discuss self-imposed carbon limits. Yet, the largest emitter, the United States, will sit idly by without a plan. That's just not wise. Nor is it sensible to be disengaged from helping the Congress develop smart and constructive environmental policy.
I am hopeful that these things will change. I will continue to do my part, including the development of legislation to cap carbon emissions in other sectors and other efforts to stimulate carbon reductions.
We all need to work together a little harder to leave the next generation with a cleaner environment. Despite these troubled times, we have a responsibility to plan for a future where the air is safe to breathe and the world is more predictable.