Mr. Chairman, I appreciate having a hearing before this Committee on the challenges of cleaning up the air. It is, however, unfortunate that you have chosen to focus this hearing on legislation that would actually increase pollution.
Significant progress has been made since the Clean Air Act was enacted in 1970 – U.S. emissions of smog forming pollutants have decreased more than 50 percent while economic growth has increased well over 150 percent. However, there is there is still much to be done to clean up our air.
Dangerous levels of pollution are causing thousands of premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks, neurological disorders, and other illnesses each year, especially in our children, our most vulnerable population.
According to the EPA, hospital admissions for asthma alone increased approximately 30 percent between 1980 and 1999. Further, one in six women of child bearing years has dangerous levels of mercury -- a potent neurotoxin that threatens the health of developing fetuses, children, and other vulnerable populations – in her system.
These are the issues that we should be addressing today -- how to reduce pollution and its public health and environmental effects.
If the administration and this committee’s leadership were serious about addressing pollution, this committee would not be discussing S. 131, a wholesale roll back of the Clean Air Act. We would be discussing Senator Jeffords’ bipartisan Clean Power Act, S. 150, which takes on the challenge of protecting public heath by aggressively reducing power plant emissions while keeping the Clean Air Act in tact.
Although Senator Inhofe presents his bill as addressing power plant pollution – that is not the purpose of this bill. Make no mistake, the purpose of S. 131 is to undermine and unravel the Clean Air Act, undoing three decades of progress in cleaning up our air, under the guise of a power plant bill.
Contained in S. 131 is virtually every roll back that industry has fought for since the passage of the Clean Air Act. S. 131:
· delays implementation of public health air quality standards 5 – 17 years;
· repeals air toxic regulations for power plants and more than 73,000 other facilities, including emissions of cancer-causing pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene, arsenic, toluene and lead;
· makes it harder for states to clean the air by removing states’ tools, such as the requirements that old, industrial facilities, including power plants, install modern pollution controls when they make significant changes that result in an increase in air pollution or that they offset pollution increases; and
· ignores emissions of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming.
Each year of delay in cleaning up our air takes an unnecessary toll on our public health, welfare and the environment. The solution is not to defer deadlines and weaken regulations, but, rather, to accelerate industry compliance with the current Clean Air Act.
Proposals such as S. 131 that fall short of protecting public health or that seek to use the power plant debate to unravel the current Clean Air Act should be soundly rejected because they do not address the fundamental issue – the threat to the health of our communities from air pollution.
Remember, S. 131 is not really about power plants, S. 131 is about dismantling the Clean Air Act. It is an industry wish list that not only fails to adequately address power plant pollution, but which would result in at least 21 million tons of additional pollution placing public health and the environment at risk.
We cannot, and will not, let the Clean Air Act be unraveled to appease a powerful lobby. We can and should have an open, honest bipartisan discussion about the threat that air pollution poses to public health and the environment and the steps that we can take to clean the air. I look forward to that discussion.