I am pleased to be with you today. My name is Bob Young; I am the Mayor of Augusta, Georgia. I currently serve as the Chair of the Conference of Mayor’s Energy Committee and last year, I served as Chair of the Environment Committee. These positions make me at least somewhat familiar with the topic area of today’s important discussion -- energy and clean air.
On behalf of the Conference’s President, Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, I offer you his apologies in not being with you today. As you know, he was suppose to be here testifying but fell ill yesterday with a severe respiratory ailment. I offer his sincerest apologies in not being able to make this hearing.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official, nonpartisan organization that represents cities throughout the nation through their chief elected official, the mayor.
First of all I would like to thank Senator Voinovich for not only his invitation to speak before you today but also for joining us last week during the Conference of Mayor’s Winter Meeting. Your commitment, Senator, to issues such as Community Development Block Grants and unfunded mandates is greatly appreciated by the mayors of this nation.
I come before you today not as an expert in clean air policy, but as a mayor. This means that I am responsible for a wide variety of activities including: keeping my citizens safe, keeping their surrounding environment clean and attractive, making sure the roads are maintained and that the snow gets plowed. It also means doing what I can to keep and attract new jobs to the area.
When my job is boiled down, I guess that you can say that I am responsible for making my city a place that is desirable for both people and businesses to flourish. Every mayor strives to create a community that has healthy citizens with a healthy economy. And I think with some common sense, you can have both.
That is why I am here today. In order to remain competitive, this nation needs a steady, reliable, and inexpensive source of energy. However, we also need clean and healthy air.
Depending upon the type of business, a number of conditions influence their decision to locate or expand in a community. Issues such as workforce availability, access to transportation hubs, and of course the costs of electricity are factors in their decision-making process.
Besides the cost and reliability of electricity, another factor that goes into a business location or expansion decision is a communities’ attainment status.
Many communities throughout the nation have been designated as nonattainment areas for either ozone or particulate matter. I was originally suppose to be designated in nonattainment for ozone but when the final numbers came out, I was fortunately not included. Many of my other mayoral colleagues were not as lucky. When it appeared that my city was going to be designated as nonattainment for ozone, my city volunteered for EPA’s Early Action Compact. This program allows cities, counties and states to go through a series of voluntary measures to reduce air pollution that causes nonattainment. I want you to know that even though we were fortunate to not get designated, we are still going through this voluntary program to demonstrate our commitment to clean air.
And the reasons why we are committed to clean air is not only because of the health of our citizens but it is a good business decision as well.
Many businesses won’t outright admit it but privately they have said that when making a decision to locate or expand in an area, one of the things they do is to find out that community’s attainment status.
If a community is in nonattainment, businesses know that to get the necessary air permits might be difficult and sometimes it just makes sense to seek out another area to build.
Both the cost of electricity and a city’s attainment status puts many communities at a competitive disadvantage to attract businesses from other parts of the United States or even the world.
These factors can have a major impact on jobs and job creation. However, the mayors of this nation don’t want to sacrifice public health for cheap electricity. We are looking for a fair and balanced approach that cleans our air while keeping costs down.
We are looking for common sense solutions to help us meet our attainment requirements.
As I mentioned before, many communities, have been designated as nonattainment for particulate matter or ozone or both.
These communities and the states they are located in are required by the environmental protection agency to meet attainment standards between 2008 and 2015.
Programs such as CMAQ, the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program, as well as the off-road diesel rules have been developed to assist us with our efforts. And these programs should be maintained or in the case of CMAQ, increased to further our efforts.
However, these programs are not enough. For many nonattainment communities, 40% of their air pollution comes from coal-fired utilities. That is a major source of pollution. We need a common-sense solution that requires these utilities to install pollution control equipment in a manner that is timely and cost-efficient.
The Conference of Mayors passed a policy resolution in 2003 calling on the federal government to address this problem.
Our policy asks that the federal government set national air emission caps under a multi-pollutant plan at levels strong enough to protect public health and the environment by substantively assisting cities in our efforts to attain the national ambient air quality standards.
We support a comprehensive and synchronized multi-pollutant, market-based program to reduce regulatory costs, maintain reliable energy at a reasonable cost for consumers, and to provide regulatory certainty to the electric power sector.
We encourage Congress to pass national legislation, which will meet the Conference of Mayors’ goals by requiring power plants to reduce air emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury by an average of 70% from 2000 levels by 2020 under a proven market-based cap and trade program.
It is my understanding, Senator that you have introduced legislation that reflects many of the concerns of Mayors. We support many of the goals of your legislation. We do need national policy to encourage utilities to reduce NOx, SO2, and mercury by 70% and the utilities do need certainty to know what regulations to expect and when to expect them by.
Also, given the success of the acid rain program, we think that a multi-pollutant cap and trade program is potentially the best means of achieving success.
I want to applaud you Senator and the members of this committee for holding this hearing on this important issue. The Mayors are pleased that Congress recognizes that power plant emissions are a major source of pollution in our nation, often preventing cities from reaching clean air goals.
The Mayors look forward to working with the committee on legislation that will improve air quality for our nation’s cities.
For the nation’s mayors, we need as many tools as possible to assist us with our efforts to have reliable and inexpensive energy while meeting our attainment standards and providing our citizens with healthy air.
A national policy is needed to deal with air pollution from utilities. We are asking Congress to address this issue at the national level while at the same time asking them not take away our ability at the state and local level to implement what may be needed on a more localized basis.
Thank you again for your efforts. I look forward to working with you and the other members of this committee on this important topic.