OPENING REMARKS

SENATOR GEORGE V. VOINOVICH

SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE ENVIRONMENT

AND PUBLIC WORKS

 

EPA Science on Mercury and Climate Change

July 29, 2003

 

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

 

The two issues that we are going to explore at this hearing today – the science of mercury and the science of climate change – are both important and timely and I commend Chairman Inhofe for holding this hearing.

 

I have stated time and time again here in Committee and on the floor that we must recognize that energy policy and environmental policy are two sides of the same coin and that the Senate has a responsibility to harmonize these policies.

 

We have an obligation here in this Committee to ensure that the legislation that we consider will protect our environment. We also have an obligation to ensure that any legislation we consider takes into account its potential impact on our economy – and we have a moral obligation to ensure that we consider a bill’s potential impact on the poor and the elderly who must survive on a fixed income.

 

When the Senate takes up consideration of climate change and multi-pollutant legislation, we must keep that moral obligation in mind – and we must ensure that we do not pass legislation that will significantly drive up the costs of electricity and home heating for those who can least afford them.

 

Several members of this Committee have introduced pieces of legislation this year to reduce power plant emissions (including mercury) and address the issue of carbon emissions and climate change by capping carbon – examples include the Jeffords-Lieberman 4-P bill, the Carper 4-P bill and the McCain-Lieberman climate change bill, which I understand will likely be offered as an amendment to the energy bill this week.

 

These bills will establish a nationwide cap on carbon emissions and their passage would force the utility sector – that is now using coal to generate over half of our Nation’s electricity – to rely solely on natural gas for generation – despite the fact that we have a 250-year supply of domestic coal and are currently in the grips of a natural gas crisis.

 

This natural gas crisis is the result of environmental policies that have driven up the use of natural gas in electricity generation significantly, while domestic supplies of natural gas have fallen. The result is predictable – tightening supplies of natural gas, higher natural gas prices, and higher electricity prices.


Home heating prices are up dramatically – forcing folks on low and fixed incomes to choose between heating their homes and paying for other necessities such as food or medicine.

 

The language that has been offered by Senators Jeffords, McCain, Lieberman, and Carper, if enacted, will force our utilities to fuel switch to natural gas, will significantly raise energy prices, and will cause thousands of jobs to be lost – particularly in manufacturing states like Ohio. 

 

During debate last year on the Jeffords-Lieberman 4-P bill, I put together a White Paper that discussed the impact that the bill would have if it were enacted. The numbers are staggering – an overall reduction in GDP of $150 billion by 2020, the loss of over 900,00 jobs by 2020, and a decline in national household earnings of up to $550 annually.

 

The costs of climate change language such as the McCain-Lieberman bill come without any benefits to our air quality or public health. Not even the most ardent supporter of carbon regulation will claim that there are demonstrable health benefits from carbon regulation.

 

Yet, the Energy Information Administration estimates that passage of the McCain-Lieberman bill will, if enacted, raise petroleum products prices by 31 percent, raise natural gas prices by 79 percent, raise electricity prices by 46 percent, and reduce GDP by up to $93 billion by 2025.

 

Carbon caps and unrealistic mercury caps mean fuel switching – and fuel switching means the end of manufacturing in my state and enormous burdens on the least of our brethren. It means moving jobs and production overseas – where there are less stringent environmental programs and will actually increase global levels of pollution.

 

The question we face on this Committee is whether we should do something reasonable to improve our understanding of the issues surrounding carbon emissions and climate change and attempt to reduce atmospheric concentrations of carbon and mercury emissions without harming our economy – or rush into a short-sighted policy that will cap carbon and mercury at unreasonable levels, shut down our economy, cut thousands of jobs, and move manufacturing overseas?

 

In a recent column, former Secretary of Energy, James Schlesinger, commented that “In climate change, we have only a limited grasp of the overall forces at work. Uncertainties have continued to abound – and must be reduced. Any approach to policy formation under conditions of such uncertainty should be taken only on an exploratory and sequential basis. A premature commitment to a fixed policy can only proceed with fear and trembling.” [I ask that the entire column by Secretary Schlesinger be inserted into the record.]

 

As I have mentioned previously, I am working with Chairman Inhofe and the Administration on moving the Clear Skies Act – which I intend to mark up in my Subcommittee this fall.

 

I am currently working with business and environmental groups to find a bipartisan compromise on dealing with carbon and global warming with an emphasis on sound science, carbon sequestration, and development of clean coal technologies – a responsible approach that focuses more on consensus rather than politics.


We need more Senators to focus on moving forward in a responsible manner and to move away from harshly ideological positions that advance nothing other than the agenda of some environmental groups that have made a carbon cap a political litmus test.

 

I thank the Chairman for holding this important hearing, and I look forward to hearing the testimony from our witnesses.

 

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