The hearing will come to order. Good morning and thank you all for coming. We are here today to discuss an issue on which I think there is broad consensus: our nation needs multi-emissions legislation.
This is not a new topic for this Committee; it is our 23rd hearing on multi-emissions issues since 1998. Our consideration of this important matter has spanned four different chairmen and covered many issues ranging from mercury and greenhouse gases to new source review to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards – referred to as NAAQS.
I believe we have spent enough time talking about this issue and that we must act now to improve the environment and protect public health. I hope we can renew the bipartisan spirit of this Committee – which has come together to enact major environmental laws on brownfields and safe drinking water and that we can now pass multi-emissions legislation, specifically the Clear Skies Act.
First and foremost, legislation is needed for our environment. The Clear Skies Act would be the most aggressive clean air proposal ever enacted. On April 1, 2004, EPA Administrator Leavitt testified before this Subcommittee that sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide reductions:
“…will result in some $50 billion being spent putting new equipment on old power plants that will provide for the highest amount of pollution being reduced in the least amount of time in our history.”
Although Clear Skies is costly and ambitious, we should pass it because of the certainty it provides. It gives our nation environmental certainty that sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury will be reduced by 70 percent by 2018 – period. It ends the cycle of litigation and confrontation obstructing further progress in reducing pollution. It also provides regulatory certainty so that companies can invest in needed pollution controls.
Second, legislation is needed to help state and local governments attain the new NAAQS. EPA recently designated 474 counties across the country as being in nonattainment for the new NAAQS for ozone and 225 counties for particulate matter.
The designations are based on stricter standards, not dirtier air. [CHART 1] In fact, since 1970, while there have been increases of Gross Domestic Product by 176%, vehicle miles traveled by 155%, energy consumption by 45%, and population by 39% – emissions of the six main pollutants have decreased by 51%.
The nonattainment designations are a threat to our state and local economies. This point can best be summarized by Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce President Michael Fisher’s testimony also on April 1, 2004:
“…job growth and capital investment for existing operations in our region have been hindered by the nonattainment designation… (and we have) been told by national site location consultants that nonattainment areas are frequently not even included as potential locations for major new manufacturing projects…”
The Clear Skies Act would help meet the nation’s new, more stringent air quality standards. [CHART 2] Although it needs to be updated, this chart still shows how 90 percent of these counties come into attainment under the reductions in Clear Skies and EPA’s new fuel and engine regulations to reduce sulfur. The NAAQS are actually an unfunded mandate on our states and localities, something I understand well as a former county commissioner and mayor – and as a governor who brought almost all of Ohio’s counties into attainment. Our local communities need our help and need it now.
Clear Skies provides that assistance more quickly and cheaply than current law. It expands the nation’s most successful clean air initiative – the Acid Rain Program. Unlike most of our nation’s environmental laws and regulations, this program has had virtually no litigation, 100 percent compliance, and has achieved its reductions at less than the projected cost. Clearly, this is what we should strive for in any multi-emissions legislation – and Clear Skies does exactly that.
Third, legislation is needed to harmonize our environmental policies with our energy needs. [CHART 3] As this chart shows, coal is our most abundant energy source – we have more coal than natural gas or oil reserves. It is also our cheapest energy source. [CHART 4] This second chart basically shows that the more coal you use the lower your electricity prices. Businesses and manufacturers in my state and across the country depend on coal and on these low prices to stay competitive in the global marketplace. We are just going to keep sending jobs overseas if we don’t start addressing many of these issues – litigation, health care, and higher energy and environment costs are a major piece of the puzzle.
Clear Skies will keep energy prices stable and jobs in America. It allows our nation to continue to burn coal – meaning that we will not rely more on natural gas for power generation. Since 1992, nearly 88% of the new power plants built have been natural gas fired. This substantial increase in the use of gas is one of the main reasons that we have a crisis right now. [CHART 5] As this chart shows, natural gas prices have nearly doubled their historical price for industrial users, who depend on it most for manufacturing.
As Tom Mullen from Cleveland Catholic Charities testified before this Committee in 2002, we must pay special attention to the impact on the poor and elderly of multi-emissions bills that increase electricity and home heating costs. In fact, higher natural gas prices have forced us to increase funding for the LIHEAP program to help low income families with their home heating bills by $800 million since 1999.
We need multi-emissions legislation to continue at a higher rate this country’s commitment to cleaning up the environment and protecting public health. As my first chart showed, we have substantially cleaned up our air while the nation has grown. Clear Skies would continue this progress by being the most aggressive clean air proposal ever enacted.
Let’s not delay any further. We need to come together in a bipartisan fashion and pass this legislation. A broad coalition supports Clear Skies and is working for its passage – including (among others) farmers, chemistry, public power, and many legislators.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on how important it is that this Committee and Congress come together and pass this important multi-emissions legislation.