I’m very happy to be back on the Environment & Public Works Committee. Of course, if I hadn’t left four years ago, I would be sitting much closer to you than to this end of the dais, but such is life!
Thank you for holding this hearing on the need for “multi-pollutant” legislation. It’s this sort of topic that made me want to get back on the Committee.
Improving air quality is vital for my home State of New Jersey and for the entire country. We have made great progress in the last few decades, but today, over 150 million Americans continue to live in areas that still have hazardous levels of air pollution.
I saw what asthma did to my sister, and I see what it does to one of my 10 grandchildren. I want my children and grandchildren to live in a country where they can breathe clean air.
I helped write the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act. Those amendments established innovative ways to improve air quality and protect public health. For instance, we created the “cap and trade” program for cutting sulfur dioxide emissions, which cause acid rain.
The “cap and trade” program has been a big success and serves as a model for cutting the emissions of other air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides.
We’ve made progress when it comes to sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, but there’s more we need to do, and we have to start getting rid of mercury, too. It’s well known that these three pollutants hurt millions of Americans each year, causing thousands of hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and more and more asthma.
As I see it, two of the fundamental questions the Committee needs to address are as follows:
The first question is whether the Clean Air Act needs to be replaced. I think the answer to that question is “no." The Clean Air Act provides the authority and flexibility we need; it just needs to be enforced better.
The second question is whether we need to start cutting the emissions of a fourth pollutant, carbon dioxide. I believe the answer to that question is “yes.”
Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse-gas pollutant that is causing our atmosphere to trap heat. Scientists from around the world have warned us that greenhouse gas emissions are causing our atmosphere to heat up.
The longer we delay, the harder it’s going to be to fix the problems that are beginning to show up now.
Polar ice caps are melting. The oceans are getting warmer, which may be causing harsher weather – like the hurricanes this past fall. Rising sea levels could destroy coastal areas – such as those in New Jersey. This isn’t the kind of world I want to leave to my grandchildren!
So, this is a profoundly important hearing today and I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses, and to participating in this ongoing discussion.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.