To our witnesses, good morning, and thank you for being here today. To our Chairman, Senator Voinovich, good morning, and thank you for agreeing to hold this hearing. While it hasn’t been easy to get to this morning, I appreciate your personal involvement over the past week and your help in reaching agreement on the structure of today’s hearing. I hope that we can sit down soon with our full committee chairman and ranking member and talk about how to move forward on this important policy debate.
On our second panel today, I am looking forward to welcoming Dr. Rick Bucher of W.L. Gore, a Delaware company, who is here to tell us about promising technology they have developed that could remove 90 percent of the mercury emissions from coal fired power plants. With him, I believe, is Chris Coons, also with Gore, and the president of New Castle County Delaware’s County Council. It’s these kinds of technologies that will pave the way toward a cleaner environment, and that we in Congress should be doing more to support.
I am also looking forward to our third panel, where we will have the opportunity to hear, I believe for the first time before a Senate Committee, an aspect of this debate that we have not considered – the view of this issue from investors in the industry. One week ago today, in the New York Times, there was an article in the Business Section that I would like to quote from, and with consent enter into the record. Written by Katharine Seelye, it begins, “ Almost a quarter of the shareholders of the Southern Company, one of the nation’s largest utilities, voted at an annual meeting today to require the company to analyze and report on the potential financial risks associated with its emissions of the pollutants that cause global warming.” The article goes on to say that last year, similar resolutions concerning global warming garnered an average support level of 18 percent, while this year the average is more than 25 percent.
More and more companies are beginning to face such questions about their environmental record from investors. While here in Congress we continue to discuss new legislative strategies to clean up our air, on Wall Street there is a growing call for companies to recognize that emissions, including CO2 and those that lead to global warming, should be addressed. An increasing number of shareholders, who vote with their dollars, are beginning to invest their capital based on how companies are addressing these issues. Those shareholders, and the companies, are looking to us for a signal on what will come.
Today’s hearing is focused on the Clear Skies Act. I want to remind the committee that along with Senators Chafee and Gregg, I have introduced the Clean Air Planning Act, which represents a sensible solution to this problem. The bill would provide a market-based and flexible approach to regulating CO2, NOx, mercury and SO2 emissions, while continuing to provide affordable and reliable electricity.
I would also like to take a moment to say something about my good friend Christy Whitman, who since our last hearing announced her plans to leave the EPA. I will miss her, and I wish President Bush luck in nominating a replacement who is as capable and cooperative as Gov. Whitman has been on many issues that we have dealt with together. She has been a strong advocate for moving a multi-pollutant bill through this committee and the Senate, and I hope we can meet that challenge after she is gone. I also hope that before she leaves, she will be able to respond to the request that I, along with Senators Chafee and Gregg made to her in April of this year. We asked for the analysis of the Clean Air Planning Act, and to date, have not received it. Having this information is critical to our ability on this committee to evaluate alternative options and to develop effective legislation.
Mr. Chairman, in conclusion let me repeat something I said at our first hearing on this topic, when Governor Whitman was seated before us. We should agree on a set of principles to guide us as we move forward. I offer the following –
1. Four is better than three: A comprehensive four-emission strategy that includes carbon reductions will provide regulatory certainty and offer the greatest environmental and economic benefits.
2. Markets work: Cap and Trade based emission standards provide the maximum incentive to achieve cleaner power.
3. Stairs are better than cliffs: Prompt but gradual reductions through multi-phase or declining caps are more desirable than single phased cuts.
4. Eliminate redundancy only when emission reductions are secured: Existing regulatory programs such as new source review will need some modernization in light of tight emission caps.
I hope that we will find a way to sit together soon and really focus on what we can do to achieve a bill that can pass this subcommittee and the full committee. We have a lot of work to do, and I’m ready to begin.
Mr. Chairman, I look forward to today’s witnesses, and I will have some questions for them after we hear their testimony.