Governor Leavitt, good to see you again.
I am looking forward to this morning's hearing. The clean air challenges my state of Delaware faces today, and will face in the years ahead, require the assistance of the federal government to solve. I am encouraged that the EPA is moving forward on implementing measures to address clean air issues. I am interested to learn how the EPA envisions states will achieve clean air and meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
I recognize that achieving clean air across the country is a difficult task, and I do not pretend to understand all of the history of the Clean Air Act or the details of its voluminous set of regulations. However, I have a good enough understanding of the situation to see that Delaware's air quality will continue to be worse than what it should be for many years to come. And that is not acceptable to me, nor should it be to the EPA.
Delaware has three counties: New Castle, where 75% of the population lives and which is bisected by I-95. Kent, which houses the state capital, Dover, and the Dover Air Force Base. And Sussex, home to the Delaware beach towns of Rehoboth, Dewey, and Bethany and booming destination for retirees and second homes.
We expect that the entire state of Delaware will be designated as non-attainment for Ozone, and New Castle County will also be in non-attainment for PM 2.5. The state will continue to take steps to reduce ozone and fine particulate matter, but there is only so much a little state like Delaware can do by itself to come into attainment. An important question is what will the EPA do to help us if much of the offending air comes from outside of the state?
We will hear from our witnesses today, including Mr. George Thurston, of the impacts ozone and fine particles have on humans. We are in agreement that more needs to be done to protect public health from these harmful pollutants. And we are likely also in agreement that 10 years from now, as the science and our understanding advance, we may find that we need to make even larger reductions.
But today, we should focus upon what states like Delaware are doing, and will do to meet the standards that EPA has proposed.
I see three major issues before us.
First, the agency is moving from the current ozone standard to a new, supposedly better standard that is designed to be more protective of public health. At some point, the old ozone standard will probably need to be removed so that the newer standard can take its place. I am interested in how the states will handle this transition, and if making the transition will delay progress towards cleaner air.
Second, I am interested to know if the Interstate Air Quality Rule - the plan the EPA is developing to achieve cleaner air - will actually result in counties like New Castle County Delaware being able to achieve the clean air standards? I believe that the modeling for the Interstate Air Quality Rule predicts that in 2015, 26 eastern US counties will STILL fail to meet the new ozone standard. Further, 13 eastern counties are predicted to fail to meet the particulate matter standard. A number of these counties are in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland - not too far from Delaware. So even if Delaware is able to meet the clean air standards, we will continue to be at the mercy of the winds blowing from outside the state that can carry dirty air across our border.
And finally, I am interested to learn if the standards that are being established, for both ozone and for particulate matter, are being set at the proper level. Our knowledge of the science behind public health increases each year, and we are learning more about the impacts of various pollutants on humans. I understand that the EPA is currently reviewing the particulate matter standard and could suggest an even tighter standard in the near future. If that is the case, we need to be confident that we are going to achieve at least the current standard, and possibly be able to go even further if the standard is revised.
If proposals such as the EPA's Interstate Air Quality Rule, or the Administration's Clear Skies Initiative are insufficient to meet the clean air standards we are discussing today, what would we do if even tighter standards are proposed. Today's hearing is not about multi-pollutant proposals, but we should come back later and consider the merits of the clean air proposal I have introduced - The Clean Air Planning Act. I am interested in discussing how that bill, by reducing power plant emissions of Sox and Nox, could be an additional tool to help states achieve cleaner air.
In closing, I am pleased that the EPA continues to work on ways to make the air cleaner. I know we have come a long way, and I appreciate that. I also appreciate that we have a significant amount of work ahead of us. Lets get started.
Mr. Chairman, thank you.