Opening Statement of Senator Bob Smith
Ranking Member, Committee on Environment and Public Works
Hearing on Analyzing the Benefits and Costs of Multi-Pollutant Legislation
Wednesday, June 12, 2002
Mr. Chairman, I know this is an issue that you and I share a deep commitment to, and I really appreciate you calling this hearing.
A couple of years ago, I began a process as chairman of the committee with all stakeholders on this issue to begin trying to achieve bipartisan consensus to reduce emissions and to provide the National with cleaner, healthier air. It was very clear to me as we held those meetings that without bipartisan consensus, it would be very difficult to pass legislation on the Senate floor.
I think back to MTBE which, with your help, we passed out of this committee, brownfields last year, the restoration of the Everglades. There were many, many differences, but we kept the common ground on the issues where we agreed and moved the legislation forward. We kept that bipartisan consensus even though in some cases people on the left wanted more in or out, and in some cases on the right, I wanted more in or out. We kept it on common ground, stayed with the approach, and were successful. I am proud of that. Providing clean, healthy air is no different. This is a worthy goal.
It is amazing although it may not seem obvious that with one exception, we are not that far off. The exception is carbon dioxide. There is a difference of opinion on carbon dioxide, but other than that, the Democratic proposal, your proposal, and the President's proposal, have very similar, dramatic reductions in unhealthy emissions. I hope we don't let our disagreement on carbon dioxide stop us from moving forward on the common ground that we have.
Let me make an observation. I think prior to the election of President Bush, if somebody had said that he would come forth with a proposal to reduce by 70 percent Nox, SO2, and mercury from our Nation's power plants, we probably would have heard howls of disbelief. Now that that has happened, all we are hearing are howls that it is not enough.
We are working closely with the White House to make this effort a success. Senator Voinovich has just been tremendous in his support as we have worked together. Even though we have differences in my State and his State in terms of the air problems, we have worked together. As I have said many times in this committee, a company from New Durham, New Hampshire, Power Span, is working with a utility in Ohio to reduce NOx, SO2, and mercury, and they are having tremendous success. I commend you, Senator Voinovich, for your cooperation on this with me.
We do need to have an honest discussion, Mr. Chairman, on the Clear Skies Initiative. I have told the President that to me it is a starting point. It would get us into the debate and that is why I support bringing this initiative forward. If we do, I am optimistic that we will be able to achieve bipartisan consensus. The Clear Skies proposal will do the job it was designed to do B reducing emissions. I think, with all due respect, it will do it faster and cheaper than current law. It is worth just taking a look at a brief comparison of the President's proposal and Senator Jeffords' bill.
This chart shows the reductions of SO2 under the Jeffords proposal and the President's proposal. The red is Clear Skies and the dark is the Jeffords proposal. As you can see, when we get down to 2020, they are very close. So it is not so far apart that we can't reach some consensus. I just want to point out that in the end, Clear Skies calls for a 73 percent reduction and the Jeffords bill calls for 79 percent reduction from current levels, so we are talking about
6 percent in the year 2020.
The second chart that I have relates to nitrogen oxide emissions. Again look at the comparison in 2020. The President's proposal reduces emissions by 67 percent and Senator Jeffords' proposal by 70 percent from current levels. So clearly, there is enough common ground that we could work a compromise on that one.
We don't have any particular charts for mercury. However, as I mentioned, with some of the new pilot projects that are going on, there are some dramatic reductions in mercury being done by some of the new technology. So when it comes to the protection of public health, Clear Skies and S. 556 are close enough that we can find the common ground we need.
Currently, EPA estimates that 305 counties failed the new ozone standards and 140 failed the new soot standards. Under Clear Skies, both of these numbers dropped to 27 counties. That is a pretty big gain in healthy counties under the President's proposal. Under Senator Jeffords' proposal, it drops to 21. There again, we are very, very close, by getting similar results.
If there is a major difference between the two proposals, I think it is cost. That is something I hope we can look at. While the reductions in emissions are similar under Senator Jeffords' proposal, there is a greater burden on the economy. Maybe even more important than the cost is the effect on our national security. We have 460 years worth of coal reserves in this country versus 65 years worth of natural gas. Let me say that again, we have 460 years of good coal reserves and 65 years of natural gas.
Now, look at the fuel mix under this chart. S. 556 would cause fuel switching from coal to natural gas. You can see in the first chart where it says coal, second is natural gas and natural gas spikes and coal goes down. So we are not keeping that diversification that we have had in our fuel mix for sometime. We are taking a dramatic turn in the fuel mix and using natural gas, which is somewhat limited, instead of coal, which is much more prevalent.
I respect your commitment, Mr. Chairman. I have no issue here with that, but I hope we can move toward energy independence and not increase our dependence on foreign sources which is what I think would ultimately happen.
I think there is one more chart on the cost and then I will wrap up here. Coal is abundant and cheap. It needs to be cleaner and we are doing a lot to do that. If you can see here, the green is the cost, the Clear Skies Initiative is in the middle with $6.4 billion, cleaning up the emissions that are out there and $17 billion under S. 556. So it is almost triple the cost.
I know that Senator Jeffords' cost proposal does have carbon in the mix, to be fair, and that is correct, but even if you take out carbon, the Jeffords proposal is still about 55 percent more expensive.
Let me conclude on the issue of carbon dioxide. No bill that includes a mandatory carbon piece is going to pass the U.S. Senate, whether we like it or not. So I would say, Mr. Chairman, let us pass a bill that will reduce three emissions dramatically, come to an agreement and then let the Senate work its will, if we need an amendment or whatever. If the Senate passes it, it passes it; if it rejects it, it rejects it. The point is we can then move to a further discussion of CO2 later on.
During the debate on the energy bill a couple of months ago, three times the Senate voted against carbon limitations. It is worth noting they were bipartisan votes; it is not going to pass. It is too important to have us get bogged down because of this one issue where we have some dramatic disagreements. The fact is mandatory carbon caps will kill an emissions reduction bill. I do not want to kill an emissions reductions bill. I do not see any reason why, if we disagree on carbon, we should continue to inhale more mercury, more NOx and more SO2 over the next 20 years. It makes no sense to me.
If we care about the health of our children, care about cleaner air, let us do the right thing and go forward where we agree and fight over what we do not agree on. Why fight over what we do not agree on and not move forward with what we do agree on. I am the first to admit, I did not get everything I wanted in the brownfields bill. I voted against amendments right here in this chair that I supported because I knew if we passed them, it would have broken the compromise and right now we are cleaning up brownfields all over America.
I will accept my fair share of the blame for it in the sense that we kept brownfields locked in with Superfund, we could not get Superfund reformed for 20 years, so all the brownfields were becoming Superfund sites and nobody was cleaning them up. We took it out, we passed it and that is what we need to do here.
I did not get everything with MTBE either, but I needed to get MTBE out of the water in my State. We accomplished that with the legislation that passed that is now part of the energy package.
Mr. Chairman, I would ask you, let us work together to pass a bill that makes our air cleaner and healthier and one we know can be signed into law. I think that would be bipartisan on the three emissions I spoke of.