SENATOR HARRY REID
Environment and Public Works Committee
Hearing on S. 556 The Clean Power Act
November 15, 2001
Mr. Chairman, I want to begin by thanking you for holding this important hearing. We need to take a serious look at controlling all emissions from power plants.
The health effects of polluted air range from asthma to lung cancer to heart disease and worse. Mercury deposited in lakes and rivers can bioaccumulate in fish. Each year about 60,000 children may be born in the U.S. with neurological problems as a result of their mothers= consumption of contaminated fish and seafood during pregnancy.
Emissions from power plants also contribute to environmental degradation: power plants release one-third of nitrogen oxides and three-quarters of sulfur dioxide emissions in the US, and both pollutants cause acid rain.
Some senators would like to exclude carbon dioxide from caps on power plant emissions. However, carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases contributing to global warming, and electric utilities account for one-third of US carbon dioxide emissions.
Mr. Chairman, global warming is already occurring . Seven of the ten warmest years in the 20th century occurred in the 1990s, and warming in the 20th century is greater than at any time during the past 400-600 years.
The environmental consequences of this warming are becoming obvious. Mountain glaciers around the world are receding, the Arctic ice pack has lost 40% of its thickness, and there is evidence that plants and animals are changing their behavior in response to shifts in climate.
The human consequences of global warming may include: disruptions in agricultural production; more wind, flood, and drought damage; greater range of disease-carrying insects; and increases in respiratory illnesses and heat stress. These consequences will have real effects on public health and the US economy.
Mr. Chairman, we cannot ignore the impact of air pollution on our quality of life. I look forward to working with you and the Committee to develop 4-pollutant legislation dealing with reducing air emissions, including carbon dioxide, from power plants.