Senator Bob Smith
Ranking Member, EPW Committee
Opening Statement - POPS
May 14, 2002
I want to thank the witnesses for sharing your expert testimony with the committee. Last Spring, with Governor Whitman and Secretary Powell at his side, President Bush announced his support for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants – The POPs Convention. This agreement will restrict and eliminate the production, use and/or release of 12 chemicals, including DDT, PCBs and dioxins, that are some of the most persistent and dangerous chemicals ever manufactured. Because they are so mobile and accumulate in the food chain, absent international action, they will continue to be a risk to us all.
I am pleased that the international community came together and found a common solution. The agreements that are the subject of this hearing were developed in cooperation internationally and enjoy strong bipartisan support here in the United States. When we all work together, we can do great things for our environment. I want to commend President Bush and Governor Whitman for their leadership in pressing for this convention and delivering their implementing legislation to Congress. I am honored to be the lead Senate sponsor of the President’s implementing legislation, S. 2507.
I know that Senator Jeffords has also introduced his own version of implementing legislation. The purpose of today’s hearing is to discuss those two proposals. The two bills mirror each other with a few differences: The Administration proposal includes a provision to implement the PICs agreement – the Jeffords bill does not; the Jeffords bill sets out an explicit mechanism for adding future chemicals when and if adopted by the international community – the Administration bill does not; and, the Jeffords bill provides a role for the National Academy of Science and also mandates a dioxin risk assessment.
I realize that there is some controversy surrounding what mechanism the United States should use for the addition of any new chemicals. I was pleased when Governor Whitman stated at our press conference announcing implementing legislation that it is EPA’s intention to work closely with the Congress to address the adding mechanism. I take that as a good faith and constructive gesture to deal with this issue in a bipartisan manner. It is my hope that we can avoid partisan rhetoric and find a good consensus answer to what appears to be the only issue of substance left to be resolved. It is also my hope that people will not use this single point that needs to be worked out as an excuse to politicize this process and turn what is a strong bipartisan effort into a political battle. The result of making this issue partisan would be to delay the implementation of something that EVERYONE wants. As I have said over and over again, environmental politics delays environmental protection. Let’s keep the tone down, work together and see if we can solve this lone issue and claim victory on an environmental treaty that everyone believes is the right thing.