U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   06/05/2003
Sen. James M. Inhofe
Clear Skies Act

ATTACHMENT -- Letter from Administrator Whitman

I would like to thank Mr. Kroszner for testifying regarding the current state of knowledge regarding emissions control technologies. As you know, this topic is one of great importance to me and this Subcommittee. While I would have preferred to have had this data earlier, I am appreciative that the Administration is here today to ensure that this Subcommittee has the most up-to-date information as it considers the legislation.

I want to reiterate that I am committed to the Clear Skies goal of reducing S02, NOx and mercury emissions by 70 percent, which is the most aggressive Presidential initiative in U.S. history to reduce power plant emissions.

But I am concerned that the phase 1 mercury interim cap is too stringent and creates too much uncertainty. U.S. utilities contribute only 1 percent of the mercury being emitted globally and new scientific findings have called into question the health effects associated with mercury emissions. While I intend to address the question of the current state of science regarding mercury at a future full Committee hearing, the focus of this hearing is on the control equipment.

The decisions we make should be based on the best available facts about how well the technologies work because regulation of mercury are costly. These costs are passed on to consumers as higher electricity prices. Higher prices are like a regressive tax on the poor in our nation since everyone needs electricity. This is why I believe we should adopt a co-benefits approach to phase 1.

I am aware that the Administration has expended much effort to incorporate into its models the most accurate assessments of what the various technologies accomplish in terms of reducing S02, NOx and mercury. While reducing emission levels can be extremely expensive, much is understood about the capture of S02, NOx, and particulate matter. There is little uncertainty regarding the costs and emissions capture rates for S02 and the latest technology such as scrubbers and baghouses. Mercury stands in sharp contrast. While there are technologies under development - and we will hear about some of them in the second panel - there is no commercially proven and available technology to remove mercury from coal-fired emissions.

My main interest in this hearing is the estimated mercury phase 1 co-benefits level. I feel compelled to note my long­standing frustration at the ever-evolving definition of co­benefits as this process has progressed, so I want to make clear at this hearing how I define it. Mercury co-benefits are the levels of mercury expected to be achieved as a result of meeting the S02 and NOx phase 1 emission limitations.

Clearly the state of knowledge regarding mercury capture is rapidly evolving, yet is still in its infancy. Much uncertainty remains about the levels of capture that are achieved using proven technologies. Mr. Kroszner, your written testimony reflects both these statements. While Clear Skies has a hard cap of 26 tons, your models predict that the co-benefits will result in emission levels in the range of 34 to 46 tons. This range also demonstrates the level of uncertainty that exists even now about the levels of control and what the various technologies will achieve. My primary interest is to better understand the major assumptions your models make about various combinations of equipment. Specifically, how have the models evolved from 2002 to 2003 for both EPA and EIA. Also, what equipment combinations drive the differences between EPA's and ETA's 2003 co-benefit results.

I would like to compliment the Administration for the level of attention given to continually updating its estimates by working with researchers and industry to improve the assumptions it uses in the models. This new information is profound in its implications. I am also encouraged the Administration is continuing in its efforts to reconcile differences within the EPA and EIA models so that Congress has the latest information as the science matures.

Thank you for appearing here today to share with us your views.