This Committee has had more than 20 hearing examining issues related to multi-pollutant legislation. Today’s hearing is the final hearing I plan to hold as Chairman of this Committee on the issue. I intend to mark up this bill two weeks from today because it is past time for Congress to act.
The Clear Skies legislation, is the largest reduction in utility emissions ever called for by an American President, 70% reductions is NOx, SO2, and mercury by 2018, with major reductions taking place in the first phase over the next five years.
Although the air is much cleaner today than it used to be, with major pollutants being cut by half even as the population and economic activity increased substantially, when it comes to reducing utility emissions the Clean Air Act is outdated and must be reformed.
Every attempt to set a standard by regulation has resulted in endless litigation. The NOx SIP Call took over seven years. The NAAQS Process took over ten years when you consider the 1997 proposal was required by court order. The residual risk program is in worse shape, and the agency’s efforts to date to deal with residual risk have been criticized by the National Academy of Sciences. And regardless of what you think of the NSR program, it has resulted in almost no emissions reductions, and its use in the courtroom will only delay reductions. The only virtually litigation-free program to reduce utility emissions has been the acid rain program.
The success of the acid rain program is the reason President Bush proposed the Clean Skies Initiative, and the reason Senator Voinovich and myself support it. This program has been practically litigation-free, whether it was in the implementing regulations or the enforcement. And it has been almost completely violation free.
The Clear Skies legislation, S.131, will clean up the air by reducing utility emissions faster, cheaper, and more efficiently than the Clean Air Act. Anyone who doubts this either does not understand the legislation or has not paid attention to the endless litigation over the last fifteen years.
We will hear testimony today from a variety of witnesses in addition to the Administration witness. We will hear from: a well-respected environmental official that is dedicated to solving the Acid Rain problem in New York and New England, the area of the country where its effects are most devastating; an analyst for a labor union who is concerned that the alternatives to Clear Skies will cost jobs; and a lawyer for a national group which has brought numerous lawsuits under the current act. Why is it that only the lawyer supports the endless litigation that is the current act.
What we are trying to accomplish with this Act, is to expand the Acid Rain program in order to achieve the emissions reductions without the endless lawsuits. Maybe that is why so many large environmental organizations, who employ more lawyers than scientists, oppose this bill.
They have thrown a number of unsubstantiated claims at this bill. They say this bill infringes on state’s rights. It does not, it reaffirms them. They claim it rolls back emission reductions the current act will achieve. It does not. It will make new reductions possible. They say the law requires, and we can achieve, a 90 percent reduction in mercury by 2008. It does not and we cannot given the lack of technology. And, most ludicrous of all, they say it will engender lawsuits despite the fact that this bill is based on the litigation-free Acid Rain program precisely to end litigation and ensure clean air progress.
Last week, the Energy Information Administration released a report examining the economic impacts of mercury regulation. It found that the proposal favored by national environmental groups such as the NRDC to regulate mercury by 90 percent by 2008 would lead to a 26 percent increase in natural gas prices and a 22 percent increase in electricity prices by 2010 if technologies cannot achieve the mandate. And EPA says they will not. The result: wholesale exports of American manufacturing jobs overseas.
Given the environmental benefits and predictability of this bill, I would question those who say we are standing on ideology not to include carbon mandates. Who is standing on ideology? Carbon mandates cannot pass the Senate. That is the simple truth of the matter. Those who would sacrifice the tangible benefits in cleaner air and improved health achieved in a “3-P” bill simply to make a political statement are the ones clinging to the worst parts of the Clean Air Act, the litigation, not the emissions reductions of the acid rain program.