Since the Clean Air Act was first passed into law we have made significant environmental progress.
But our work is not over.
In Delaware, the entire state exceeds EPA’s health standards for ozone, and New Castle County doesn’t meet EPA’s standard for fine particulate matter.
According to a recent survey*, during each of the summer months when ozone pollution is at its worst over 10,000 adult Delawareans are unable to work or carry out daily activities for one or more days.
*(the Behavioral Risk Factor Survey is an annual survey of Delaware's adult population about behaviors which affect risk of disease and disability)
And that’s just in my small, home state. The dirty air millions of Americans are being forced to breathe is costing us dearly.
The National Association of Manufacturers released a publication in March titled Health Care Cost Crisis. The publication states “the rising cost of health coverage is one of the biggest challenges manufacturers face today.”
In terms of solutions, the first “quick fix” the NAM offers is the following: “Intensively managing chronic health care conditions (e.g. diabetes, hypertension, asthma) can generate substantial cost savings and increase productivity.”
The health care costs of asthma are staggering.
In Delaware, each year, about 32% of adults with asthma must visit the doctor one or more times.
And 19% reported one or more visits to an emergency room or urgent care center because of asthma.
In a report titled, The Burden of Asthma in Delaware, Delaware’s Division of Public Health determined that total statewide charges for asthma treatment and medications could be as high as $25 to $30 million a year.
In my small state, that is real money.
While I was Governor, I discovered is that the costs of breathing dirty air are a far heavier burden on our economy than the costs of air pollution controls.
Setting air quality standards to protect our citizens from the physical and economic burdens of dirty air is an important step.
However, setting more stringent national standards must be coupled with a national strategy to achieve them.
That is why I feel my legislation, the Clean Air Planning Act, is so important. It will require significant reductions from the largest polluters in the country – power plants.
Specifically, my bill will greatly reduce ozone pollution. It will cut nitrogen oxide from 5 million tons today to 1.7 million tons in 2015.
With these reductions in ten years only 11 areas in the nation will exceed EPA’s health standards for ozone.
My proposal will also cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 82 percent by 2015. Sulfur dioxide pollution causes several chronic health problems.
According to EPA, my proposal would cut the number of areas currently in nonattainment for particulate matter by over 70 percent by 2010.
I commend you, Administrator Johnson, for realizing that more needs to be done to adequately protect public health, and proposing to strengthen the current standard.
I would implore you to make sure your decision follows the scientific advice given to you by your staff and by the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee.
And lastly, I encourage you to work with this committee to develop the national strategies to achieve these standards.