As a general rule, I avidly support States’ rights and believe in the principle of decentralization. States and localities are often in the best situation to assess their own particular problems and implement their own solutions. But that does not mean there is no room for federal standards. Air quality and the Clean Air Act is one of those cases. Air pollution knows no boundaries and the Clean Air Act, for all its imperfections, has led to steadily improving air quality in this country.
While the implementation of our clean air laws has been local, which is appropriate, the standards themselves have been national. Now it is true that California’s air pollution problems are worse, so it is allowed to request a waiver to create even tighter standards.
The problem, however, is that the State has not even made much progress complying with existing federal laws, let alone more stringent ones. For instance, California is violating federal law to reduce the soot its citizens are forced to breathe every day. It is in violation of federal particulate matter standards and shows few signs it will come into compliance.
The same is true for ozone. While EPA grapples with whether the federal standards for ozone are tight enough or not, areas of California are not even complying with existing law.
When I introduced legislation last year to tighten penalties for counties that have ignored our air pollution laws and are in serious nonattainment for ozone and particulate matter, it caused uproar because people said I was selectively targeting California. At first, I was surprised by the reaction. But as I learned more about efforts to control pollution in this country, I found out that California is the only State in the Union that is extensively ignoring federal law.
Now I don’t have an axe to grind against California – it’s a great State. But it is the height of hypocrisy for California State officials to sit here today condemning the Bush Administration when it is violating multiple air quality standards.
I’m not introducing my legislation today since it’s not climate specific. I don’t want to confuse people – my bill is not a climate bill. It is a serious attempt to reign in the worst offenders of our federal pollution laws. But I take air pollution very seriously and do plan to introduce my legislation again in order to hold these areas accountable and to help make their air cleaner.
It is hypocrisy for California policymakers to try to be the tail that wags the dog when it comes to the Clean Air Act. When it comes to the issue of whether climate fluctuations are natural or caused by man, you all know my view that the cycles we are now experiencing – and have experienced for thousands and even millions of years – are natural. But even if, hypothetically speaking, I were wrong in that assessment, California is not unique when it comes to greenhouse gases, as it is for traditional air pollution.
Madam Chairman, I know many Californians proudly say that their state leads the nation when it comes to the environment. While I disagree when it comes to California’s commitment to air quality, it may be true in one circumstance. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, over the last two decades, California’s temperature has cooled by .06 °C – or about a third of a degree per century. Yes, I said cooled. So if Russia’s top solar scientist is correct that the Earth is heading into a cooling phase, California is indeed leading the nation and even the world.
Today’s call for an immediate decision on the waiver request is simply grandstanding. Granting California’s waiver immediately would make no difference to global temperatures even if the alarmists were right. And it certainly would not benefit California.
Yet for political purposes, California’s leadership is asking EPA to sidestep its statutory responsibilities to first make a finding whether greenhouse gases endanger human health and the environment.
Even if EPA were to make such a finding, that still would not justify California’s waiver request, as it does not meet the necessary requirements for EPA to grant such a request.
Madam Chairman, I have more to say on the subject of political grandstanding and hypocrisy, but will reserve my comments for the question and answer period.