I'm glad we're here today to discuss the need for multi-pollutant legislation. I've been a strong proponent of such bipartisan legislation for years. We need to lock in emissions reductions soon so we can meet our public health and environmental responsibilities on schedule.
Yesterday, I re-introduced the Clean Power Act with 18 bipartisan cosponsors and just that kind of guarantee. Despite great progress in reducing pollution over the last 30 years, science tells us that we still have enormous challenges now and ahead.
We have only barely touched upon many of these challenges. We still must:
-achieve safe air quality for all Americans to breathe and to live longer lives;
-finally and fully address acid rain and mercury contamination;
-clear the vistas in our national parks; and, -really begin to deal with human-induced climate change.
But, before I go on, I want to provide some historical context on the Committee's actions on this important matter.
In early 2001, there was a bipartisan dialogue to establish principles for the Committee to use in developing multi-pollutant legislation. That dialogue was disrupted by the President's decision to reverse his pledge to control carbon dioxide from power plants. In October 2001, we had a widely attended stakeholder meeting on multi-pollutant legislation to restore some type of dialogue, but without much luck. And in early 2002, I started a brief but unsuccessful attempt to resume negotiations on a four-pollutant bill. But the Administration refused to negotiate or even to provide the full Committee with timely technical assistance.
So, with no one on the other side to negotiate with or to compromise with, the Committee, under my chairmanship, approved the Clean Power Act in June 2002. If that legislation had been signed into law, we would have been well on our way to reducing the number of people, 25,000 or so, who die prematurely each year from power plant pollution. But there were Republican objections to taking up that bill, so it went no where.
Gradually, it has became crystal clear that the Administration and most of the utility industry did not and does not want Congress to successfully legislate on this matter.
Legislating would require compromise and a strengthening of the Clean Air Act, not a weakening, to get the public's support. Instead, the Administration has tried to unravel many important Clean Air programs with a special focus on gutting the New Source Review, or NSR, program.
Last year, the Administration proposed the Clean Air Interstate Rule, using authority already in the law. Unfortunately, this approach is inadequate to help nonattainment areas meet the deadlines in the law on time. Nonattainment areas need reductions and clean air monitoring data by 2009 for ozone and by 2010 for fine particulate matter, not in 2018.
The Clean Air Act has ample authority now and requires the EPA to make sure that all states have adequate implementation plans in place to prevent interstate pollution and to meet the health-based standards on time. Any delay in this schedule is unwise and causes more health and environmental damage.
Our legislation avoids such delays. EPA's analysis shows that our bill would prevent 13,000 more premature deaths in 2010 and 18,000 more in 2015 than will Clear Skies. The Administration has proposed several options for controlling mercury due to a deadline in March. Unfortunately, these options don't appear to be legal or to really ever reduce mercury by any serious amount.
As I have said many times, in public and in private, I am prepared to compromise to achieve faster and better public health and environmental benefits than in current law.
That even includes some kind of reasonable compromise on controlling carbon dioxide. But we cannot legislate responsibly and ignore manmade global warming completely. The U.S. power sector emit's one-tenth of the world's total carbon dioxide emissions. To ignore this fact defies reason, logic and the peer-reviewed work of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Geophysical Union and the International Panel on Climate Change.
So, it has surprised me to learn, without any consultation beforehand, that we will mark up a 3-pollutant bill in three weeks, a bill that is not a product of bipartisan compromise or consensus. We are here to discuss the need for multi-pollutant legislation. There is a compelling need for such legislation. This is especially true given the Administration's efforts to delay implementing and enforcing current law.
But, unfortunately, there is no process in place to produce or pass bipartisan legislation that could achieve stronger, better and faster benefits than the Clean Air Act already guarantees - whether those benefits are obtained by genuine enforcement and compliance, state actions or through litigation.
Still, I am an optimist and I remain hopeful that we can do better and meet the challenges that I have outlined. If there is a negotiated compromise to be found, then Senators Carper and Voinovich working together can almost certainly find it. I look forward to working with them and the testimony of the witnesses.