Ladies and gentlemen, almost twenty years have gone by since Congress last passed significant revisions to the Clean Air Act.
In those twenty years, however, we have made real progress in reducing our nation’s air pollution.
However, many of our dirtiest polluters have kept polluting – albeit at a somewhat slower rate – but reductions have not kept pace with the public health risks and costs attributed to this harmful air pollution.
Simply put, we’ve got to do better. Much better. And, the good news is, we can.
When Senator Alexander and I began working together to clean up our nation’s air about six years ago, we faced many challenges.
I’ll mention two of these challenges today.
The first major challenge we face is that air pollution causes serious health effects, including asthma, cancer, brain damage…even death.
According to the American Lung Association, a majority of Americans – MORE THAN 175 MILLION PEOPLE – live in areas where there is enough air pollution to endanger their lives or threaten their health.
The second challenge we faced is that air pollution knows no state boundaries.
Air pollution emitted by our oldest and dirtiest fossil-fuel power plants doesn’t just affect the state in which they are located.
In fact, mid-Atlantic and northeastern states like Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island are located at what I call, “the end of America’s tailpipe.”
We are among the states that receive a heavy dose of pollution from other states’ dirty power plants.
To ensure that states are “good neighbors,” regional and national regulations of air emissions are crucial. And, that is what brings us all here today.
Over the past ten years, the EPA has attempted to regulate harmful power plant emissions that transport across state boundaries, but court challenges have stood in their way.
In 2005, the EPA issued the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions in 28 Eastern states.
After multiple lawsuits, in 2008 the D.C. Circuit Court vacated CAIR in its entirety, but later modified its decision to remand - allowing CAIR to remain in effect until a new rule was promulgated by the EPA.
The proposed Transport Rule is EPA's response to the court's concerns.
I believe the EPA has done a good job with the tools they have to address interstate air pollution.
To meet the court’s ruling, the Transport rule is complex and limits business flexibility; however, it is clear this rule can make possible real gains in further cleaning our air and protecting public health.
Today, we will hear more details from the EPA about how this complex rule will work.
We will also hear from the states, environmental community and business on what they expect the impacts to be once this rule is implemented.
I believe that EPA has written a rule that meets the court’s demands, but -- like other rules -- I expect we will see this rule litigated before the court in the not-too-distant future.
This is a rule to help meet 1997 standards. 1997. As we all know, it’s not 1997 anymore. It’s 2010, and It’s time we have clarity and certainty on clean air reductions.
I believe this Congress needs to pass bipartisan legislation that I’ve authored along with Sen. Alexander and 14 other of my colleagues.
Legislation that cuts mercury emissions by 90 percent and tightens national emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
This legislation – as shown by EPA modeling - will save even more lives than the EPA’s Transport rule, at a very low cost to the consumer.
However, it’s clear that we should be debating how to strengthen the Clean Air Act so we can save thousands of lives and billions of dollars in healthcare costs, rather than debate whether we should be weakening our ability to clean up the air.