The hearing will come to order. Good morning and thank you all for coming.
Today, we are discussing implementation of the existing particulate matter and ozone air quality standards. This is the second hearing on this important topic as we held a similar one on April 1, 2004 before EPA designated 495 counties across the nation – 38 in Ohio – as in nonattainment for either one or both of the standards. As I stated at that hearing, this is not about the standards. They are what they are and counties across the country need to meet them.
Our focus must be on meeting the standards in a way that does not further degrade our competitiveness. We are truly at a crossroads. The decisions and investments we make today will determine the competitiveness of the United States for future generations. While innovation and productivity has traditionally been the source of our nation’s preeminence, the gap between us and the rest of the world is closing quickly.
Before it is too late, we must put forth a comprehensive vision of how we will remain competitive in the global economy. Of our challenges, none is more pressing today than energy. We need a Second Declaration of Independence – energy independence. This entails a national commitment to become independent of foreign sources of energy by harmonizing our nation’s energy, environmental, and economic policies.
All three of these policies play an integral role in the implementation of our nation’s air quality standards. This was clearly stated by Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce President Michael Fisher at the 2004 hearing (quote): “…our businesses face a confusing series of environmental laws and regulations that often lead to miscommunication, regulatory uncertainty, lost business investment, and even higher energy costs… Simply stated, conducting business in an area designated as non-attainment is more complicated, more time-consuming, and more costly.”
As a former Governor who brought all of Ohio’s counties into attainment, I understand firsthand that these standards are an unfunded mandate on our state and local governments. We need to do all that we can to help.
The federal government needs to let communities know what is required of them. Even though state implementation plans are due in June 2007 and April 2008, the particulate matter rule was only proposed this month and the second ozone implementation rule was finalized just yesterday. EPA owes us an explanation about this delay because states need these rules earlier.
EPA’s Clean Air Interstate Rule is a good effort to help by significantly reducing power plant emissions, but it does not provide the full assistance needed by many areas such as those in moderate nonattainment like Cleveland.
I have met with Ohio EPA Director Joe Koncelik several times on this issue and would like to insert into the record testimony that he has provided. He continues to emphasize that the Cleveland area cannot attain the ozone standard by its deadline of 2010 but could by 2015. He states (quote): “Ohio believes that the current federal approach to improving air quality lacks coherency. The federally mandated air pollution control programs are on much longer implementation schedules than the deadlines established by U.S. EPA for states to meet the 8-hour ozone standard. A better balance needs to be struck.”
The lack of coherency in our environmental, energy, and economic policies is having a major impact on families and businesses – especially in Northeast Ohio. We must start looking at the bigger picture and understand that what we do in one area affects another.
Enacting multi-emissions legislation would provide certain reductions – unlike the legal challenges and delays we have seen with EPA rules – and harmonization between the attainment dates and federal air policies so we avoid unnecessary harm. I thank EPA for their presentation recently to this Committee on their extensive analyses of the different proposals. I hope that this now allows my good friend and Ranking Member to offer a counterproposal like Chairman Inhofe and I did so we can move forward.
EPA has also finalized new diesel fuel and engine regulations to substantially reduce diesel emissions. This will help nonattainment counties because on-road and non-road diesel vehicles and engines account for roughly one-half of the nitrogen oxide and particulate matter mobile source emissions nationwide. However, the full impact will take time because the rules address new engines and the estimated 11 million existing engines have a long life.
That is why I introduced with several members of this Committee the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act to establish voluntary national and state-level grant and loan programs to promote the reduction of diesel emissions. The easy part was getting this broadly supported bill passed as part of the energy bill – now we need to get it funded.
I am pleased to report that an amazing coalition has come together to push for $200 million in fiscal year 2007 and for consolidating all of the diesel emissions reductions programs under this one. I would like to insert into the record letters sent to the President from the major state and local groups and over 200 environmental, industry, public, and labor groups.
I again thank everyone for attending, and I look forward to hearing from the witnesses about what is being done or should be done to help states and localities. Due to the impact on our nation’s competitiveness, this matter deserves serious attention.