Thank you, Mr. Chairman for scheduling today’s hearing on the Clear Skies Act of 2005. I also want to thank our witnesses for coming today to testify about this legislation, which is based on one of the more successful programs established by the Clean Air Act.
We have made major strides in the fight for cleaner air since Congress first passed the Clean Air Act in 1970. But we continue to face air quality challenges in different parts of the United States, and Americans still suffer adverse impacts from air pollution. An important next step would be for Congress to enact sensible legislation that will achieve additional health benefits and reductions in air pollution without triggering endless lawsuits.
In cities across the nation, our current approach to regulating air quality has generated ambiguities that have triggered such lawsuits. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for example, a lawsuit has been filed over federal environmental officials’ approach to regulating ozone levels there.
Until 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency applied a so-called “one hour” ozone implementation standard to the City of Baton Rouge. In 2004, however, the EPA replaced its “one hour” standard with a new, more stringent and protective “eight-hour” ozone implementation standard. Baton Rouge, which was classified as a “severe” non-attainment area under the EPA’s old ozone implementation standard, is now considered a “marginal” area under the agency’s new standard.
To re-classify Baton Rouge as “marginal” under EPA’s more stringent standard and yet continue to insist that the city meet the requirements for areas that are designated as “severe” seems to me to be inconsistent -- especially when Baton Rouge has not even implemented any of the “severe” requirements. But my constituents in Baton Rouge tell me that this is exactly what the government is requiring of them under the EPA rule implementing the 8-hour standard. Not surprisingly, this situation has resulted in the filing of a lawsuit.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on this and other important issues. Once again, thank you, Mr. Chairman for your efforts to organize this hearing.