U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   04/08/2003
 
Sen. Craig Thomas, of Wyoming
Clear Skies Act

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing today on the Clear Skies proposal. The issue of clean air is of great importance to the entire nation, but particularly to the West and my state of Wyoming where we have some the nation’s cleanest air and world-class reserves of coal and natural gas, as well as wind resources. As you know, air quality issues are different in the West than they are in the East. In part, because of our abundance of low-sulfur coal, we don’t have acid rain. We don’t have ozone non-attainment areas due to power plants (Southern California and Phoenix have a problem due to mobile sources). And, we don’t have fine particle problems.

We do, however, have an issue with visibility, and we have addressed that on a region-wide basis through the Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP), which has put in place a program to reduce SO2 emissions over the next 15 years. I was pleased to see the Clear Skies Act embraces the WRAP program for SO2 in the West. I am also pleased that the Administration endorses a separate Western NOx program, so that costly controls that may be necessary to address health risks of ozone nonattainment in the East are not mandated in the West.

On that note, I wanted to discuss how to address the additions of Oklahoma and Kansas to the Western NOx zone.. When the change was made in the Clear Skies legislation this year, the NOx allowances for Kansas and Oklahoma were left in the East. This action has produced an unfair situation for us in the West.

In addition to being different with respect to SO2 and NOx, the West also is different from the East and Midwest with respect to mercury. The mercury emitted from sub-bituminous coal and the lignite that we burn in the West is quite small in volume, and different in form from the mercury emissions produced when Eastern bituminous coal is burned. Western mercury emissions aren’t typically captured in scrubbers, so there is little “co-benefit” in reduced emissions of mercury from installing scrubbers to reduce SO2. We must determine how Clear Skies can accommodate the unique circumstances associated with mercury emissions from Western coal.

It is my understanding that EPA modeling now confirms that reducing mercury emissions from the 48 tons or so that the nation emits today, to 26 tons in 2010, will require far more than application of controls to meet SO2 and NOx requirements. Instead, EPA modeling projects that power plants will reduce mercury emissions by switching from sub-bituminous coal to bituminous coal.

I am deeply concerned about this dramatic change and do not believe this is in the best interest of our energy and environmental policies. Currently, generation of electricity from coal represents more than 50 percent. Making massive shifts in our regulatory structure could have devastating impacts on our nation’s most reliable energy source. Already, major fuel switching to natural gas has occurred and experts agree that we will have a shortage. I think we must look at the big picture and look at where we want to be, and realistically where we can be, in twenty years.

Thank you and I welcome the witnesses and the Administrator’s comments on these issues.