The Clean Air Act has been called the “most effective environmental law” ever written. So I’m not sure that the Clean Air Act needs to be “fixed.” As we heard last Wednesday, despite double- and triple-digit growth in our GDP, energy consumption and population, Clean Air Act programs have succeeded in reducing pollution by 51 percent.
So we have made significant progress over the years, but we haven’t finished the job by any stretch. Last year, Americans in over 450 counties had to breathe unhealthy air that failed to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s health standards for ozone.
I’ve seen the tragic effects air pollution can have first-hand. Asthma took my sister’s life, and I’ve watched my 10-year old grandson, who also has asthma, struggle just to breathe. As a father and grandfather, I don’t want my family to be poisoned by the air they breathe. That’s why, the more I’ve looked at this new “Clear Skies” bill, the more concerned I’ve become.
According to EPA, under the bill before us, about 200 of the dirtiest power plants wouldn’t have to cut their emissions at all. In New Jersey, one-third of the ozone and over one-third of the mercury emissions come from other States. But under this bill, we couldn’t do anything about that upwind pollution – except hold our breath.
About 10 percent of New Jersey’s school kids have asthma, and about 150,000 of them are hospitalized each year, yet the analysis shows that “Clear Skies” would let industry off the hook for meeting vital health standards for three major pollutants until 2025 or even later. Any possible public health reason for such a bill completely escapes me. Moreover, this bill doesn’t require power plants to reduce any of their emissions of 66 deadly toxic pollutants.
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the hard work that you and Senator Voinovich have put into developing the “Clear Skies” bill. But, on reflection, I think we’re better off sticking with the Clean Air Act and do a better job of enforcing its provisions.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.