Statement of Senator James M. Jeffords
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
November 15, 2001
Two weeks ago, we heard from Federal and State witnesses about their views on S.556. In this second hearing, we'll receive testimony from affected companies, and environmental and labor groups.
But first, we're lucky to be joined by my good friend, Governor Dean of Vermont. I appreciate your willingness to appear before the Committee on this important issue, especially after making the effort to get here last time.
As my colleagues may know, the governor is a medical doctor and an avid hiker. He's seen first hand what power plant pollution can do - from the haze and the tree damage in the Green Mountains to the respiratory problems of children. The Governor has done great things for Vermont and will always be remembered as a statesman and environmentalist. I'm pleased that we're making progress in preparing a legislative record that supports a four-pollutant bill. I understand that the Administration's proposal will be out no later than the end of January. I look forward to that.
So, it seems we're on track for a markup of S.556 in the first part of February. That should give our staff plenty of time to work out all the details for a smooth markup. At the last hearing, we heard a great deal about estimated increases in the price of electricity from a 4-P approach. But, it wasn't all gloom and doom from the economists.
There was good news. The overall costs to the economy of adopting the Clean Power Act would be essentially unchanged from the reference case, almost regardless of which technology assumptions are made.
And, of course, we know that that reference case doesn't accurately portray the world as it really is. It still doesn't consider the costs of many of the regulatory actions which EPA must take in coming years to protect public and environmental health.
Given a more thorough consideration of the benefits, and a more accurate baseline or reference case, we're looking at positive economic impacts from a multi-pollutant bill. And, according to one of our witnesses today, that should include a net increase in new jobs.
At our last hearing, Senator Chafee asked an excellent question of the Administration witnesses. He asked "what are the consumer cost impacts that will be associated with the Administration's multi-pollutant proposal?"
The Committee has been waiting for an answer from the Administration on that question and the air quality and environmental effects of the entire National Energy Policy, not just the multi-pollutant proposal. Without objection, I'd like to place that May 21st letter into the record.
We can help assure that the Clean Power Act has a positive impact by keeping the fourth P in the bill, despite the Administration's views. We might be able to avert some of the economic damage that several studies have associated with a doubling of greenhouse gas concentrations. They say that the doubling will result in a loss of GDP of 1 to 2 percent and be reached by approximately 2060.
Two very important announcements were made since the last hearing. EIA reported that carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation has risen by 26.5% since 1990. And, total greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. have increased by 13.6%.
A more positive announcement came from Marrakech. The Kyoto Protocol is now more or less complete. Japan plans to ratify it in the very near future and many other nations are expected to follow shortly thereafter.
Unfortunately, these announcements reflect poorly on the U.S. We have lost credibility with our global neighbors at a very delicate time and our long term business and environmental interests have been left unattended.
Real greenhouse gas reductions require real leadership, and real leadership requires taking real risks. Stemming the rate of growth of emissions is not adequate or responsible. Long ago, there was a famous Vermonter named Ethan Allen. He was the leader of the Green Mountain Boys and an important figure in the Revolutionary War.
The story goes that he entered into negotiations to have the independent republic of Vermont become part of Canada. Yes, Vermont was an independent republic for 14 years. However, scholars now believe that his real motive was to provoke the new United States into granting Vermont full and expeditious statehood by threatening to join Canada. Vermont was a hot commodity back then. Much worse things than joining Canada could have happened. At least then Vermont would be part of a coordinated international effort to stop global warming.
Ethan Allen and Vermont took a real but calculated risk in exploring this avenue. It paid off in statehood eventually, which luckily for me leads to having 2 Senators in the U.S. Senate.
We know with some certainty that a failure to significantly reduce all four pollutants in a coordinated fashion will lead to a worsening of environmental and public health conditions. And, it will simply exacerbate the uncertainty that power generators currently face.
I hope the other members and the Administration will join me in taking the risk of leadership, and helping us move the Clean Power Act through Congress early next year.