I want to thank Subcommittee Chairman Carper and Ranking Member Voinovich for calling this timely hearing to discuss the implications of the recent court decision vacating EPA’s Clean Air Interstate Rule. While I welcome this opportunity to discuss the impacts and where we might go from here to achieve the reductions needed in real criteria pollutants that have direct adverse health effects, it is very unfortunate that we have been put in this situation in the first place. I want to begin my statement by echoing the comments that I made over 3 years ago, when CAIR went final and we first learned of legal challenges to the Rule.
Three years ago I stated that “CAIR is significantly more vulnerable to court challenges than Clear Skies would have been and will undoubtedly be held up, not unlike the Clinton administration's 1997 air quality standards. This latest round of litigation demonstrates the need for a strong national Clear Skies law more than ever.”
Well, today, here we are, and unfortunately that statement has rung true. As I stated back then, “Trying to litigate the way to cleaner air only delays progress, often yields little or no result and wastes millions in taxpayer dollars.” Now we are faced with a full vacating of the entire Rule, which, ironically enough, is a litigation result that no party actually wanted. In addition, we face an uncertain regulatory future, and most importantly, we have thrown into jeopardy the health and environmental benefits that CAIR would have achieved–estimated to have benefits over 25 times greater than their costs by the EPA. I also note that this decision certainly doesn’t bode well for those people who say we can structure flexibility into regulating carbon under the Clean Air Act.
As I said in the beginning, none of these chaotic results needed to happen. Passing the Clear Skies legislation would actually have done far more to help state and local governments comply with the new air quality standards by providing greater certainty than implementing the Clean Air Interstate Rule. Now, we are left with a laundry list of uncertainty, most importantly for states who are either in the final planning stages or recently submitted SIPs that relied on CAIR to finally achieve attainment for the 97 ozone and PM national ambient air quality standards. Add to this the potential direct impacts the Rule had on mercury reductions, conformity, new source review, and its effects on reductions for the Regional Haze Rule which may impact my state of Oklahoma, and we have a colossal mess on our hands.
Clear Skies would have proposed to put in place an integrated set of emissions control requirements with coordinated compliance deadlines. It would have avoided piecemeal implementation of multiple emissions control obligations and was essential if electric power generators were to achieve compliance in the most economically efficient manner possible. Among other things, coordinating the compliance deadlines for all three air pollutants (SO2, NOx and Hg) promoted economic efficiency, including enabling many companies to meet a substantial portion of mercury emission reduction obligations through the co-benefits achieved by installing pollution controls to reduce SO2 and NOx (scrubbers and SCRs).
Now, once again we are left with the status quo, and I think both sides can agree that the status quo is not acceptable. It means more litigation, more costs, and less certainty for businesses and less certain cuts in pollution. We actually had a Rule that was a huge rarity, actively supported by the industry, environmental groups, and a majority of States. This rule had direct, and enormous measurable health benefits. Yet here we are back before this Committee in search of another solution to a problem we shouldn’t be having. So while some may want to use this opportunity to advance their own agendas or achieve stricter standards, and I note that passing Clear Skies would have achieved greater reductions than the CAIR rule, we at least had a Rule in place that started guaranteeing real reductions and health benefits starting on January 1, 2009. Now is not the time to hold these benefits hostage. I only hope that we can guarantee that those reductions and benefits don’t slip away as a result of more partisan debate in Congress and we work to achieve a targeted and proportionate fix to the problem at hand.