Thank you, Chairman Inhofe, for holding this hearing. I hope that this hearing, the 24th hearing on this issue by my count since 1998, will underscore the need for Clear Skies. I know that I certainly am hopeful that we can report this legislation out of Committee, and to the floor for a vote where the entire Senate can debate the merits of the bill.
In my state of Georgia 28 of 159 Counties, including Walker and Catoosa Counties in the mountains, through Metro Atlanta, and down to Muscogee County and the Metro Columbus area, are in non-attainment for particulate matter. 22 of 159 counties over the same geographic area are in non-attainment for ozone. In fact, about 60 percent of Georgia's population lives in a non-attainment area. We have impaired waters from high mercury levels and, in a state where we celebrate the outdoors, over half of Georgia’s lakes and rivers have mercury-based fish consumption advisories. Coal fired power plants are a large source of these mercury levels. In light of the troubled history of Clean Air Act regulations and the delays that have prevented their full and timely implementation, Clear Skies is the best solution for reducing toxic power plant emissions by meaningful levels, and for making sure those reductions actually become reality.
As I mentioned in last week’s subcommittee hearing, I am especially interested in the benefits for Georgia in the section regarding “Transitional Areas”. Under Clear Skies, areas that are projected to meet the ozone and fine particles standards by 2015 as a result of Clear Skies would have legal deadline of 2015 for meeting these standards (i.e., will have an attainment date of 2015). These areas would be designated "transitional" areas, instead of “non-attainment" or "attainment," and would not have to adopt local measures except as necessary to qualify for transitional status). They would have reduced air quality planning obligations and would not have to administer more complex programs. Clear Skies will allow many of Georgia’s counties to be designated “transitional”, and ultimately in attainment. I believe that, with some minor changes protecting states from the threat of lawsuit as a result of these designations, this provision will dramatically benefit not just Georgia but the nation.
America has made much progress since 1970 and the passage of the Clean Air Act, however we still face major air quality challenges in many parts of the country. Clear Skies is the most important step we can take to address these challenges. Clear Skies will help solve the current clean air crisis by responsibly synchronizing the nation’s environmental, energy, and economic policies. By reducing emissions to historic lows and helping to ensure continued access to reliable, low-cost electricity, we are implementing a formula that is critical to job creation and to Georgia and America’s global competitiveness.
Congress needs to act now so that we may begin achieving emissions reductions and their related health benefits sooner rather then later. I look forward to working with you Mr. Chairman to pass Clear Skies, and improve our nation’s air quality. Thank you.