Thank you for holding this hearing today, Chairman Voinovich. It is another important step in our long-standing consideration of multi-emission legislation. We are now the fourth Congress to address this issue and this is the 23rd hearing of this Committee to address issues related to multi-emissions legislation. I held several hearings when I was Chairman of this Subcommittee, and I am now the fourth Chairman to examine the matter.
This Committee has vetted the issue thoroughly and debated every aspect. Our examination of this issue over the next month represents the culmination of an exhaustive, deliberate, and time-consuming process to update and modernize our nation’s clean air laws.
The Clean Air Act is a vital law to enable Americans to breathe healthy air. And it has had many successes. America’s air is far cleaner than a few decades ago. In the last 30 years, while our Gross Domestic Product almost tripled and our energy consumption has increased by 45 percent, emissions of the six major pollutants have been cut by more than half. And lead has been virtually eliminated.
Despite this, more work needs to be done. New more stringent particulate and ozone standards were implemented and hundreds of counties across the nation are not in attainment with these much lower pollution levels. To assist these counties with coming into attainment and continue our clean air progress, further emission reduction will be needed. The most effective, most flexible, and least burdensome way to achieve these reductions is to build on the most successful part of the Clean Air Act – the Acid Rain program.
On Monday, I introduced with Senator Voinovich the Clear Skies bill, proposed by President Bush. This bill – which cuts sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury by 70 percent – is the most aggressive emissions reduction initiative ever proposed by an American President.
Multi-emissions legislation is necessary to help states come into compliance with the law and to keep jobs here in America. Coal is our nation’s most abundant resource. It provides not only jobs, but keeps energy prices affordable for the elderly and poor. As important, keeping coal as the backbone of our electric grid allows natural gas to be used for more valuable purposes, such as home heating and the manufacturing sector. Natural gas is in a state of crisis due to limits on production. Our bill will not put further stresses on natural gas demand, as competing proposals do.
Rules to address sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury are due out later this year. But these rules suffer from what all rules suffer from – lack of certainty. Litigation of clean air rules in recent years has become an epidemic. The result is that rules provide neither the certainty that we will achieve needed emission reductions nor the certainty industry needs to invest the tens of billions of dollars that will be needed to achieve these reductions. What is needed is legislation. And our legislation will clean the air further, faster, and cheaper than the existing law.
While some have criticized our legislation because it does not address the divisive issue of imposing carbon caps, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. While some would sacrifice public health on the alter of a political agenda to regulate carbon dioxide, I believe that the time to move forward with making our skies cleaner is upon us.
I look forward to today’s hearing. We will have a full committee hearing one week from today and it is my intention to hold a full committee markup before the President’s Day recess.