It's been almost one year since EPA released its proposal to strengthen the National Ambient Air Quality standards for ozone and particulate matter. Since that time, we have heard from just about everyone interested in this issue.
Both the House and the Senate have held numerous hearings — 24 in all — to examine the science, economics, and health aspects of the new standards. We listened to scientists, industry, farmers and ranchers, environmentalists, health professionals and state and local governments.
In the end, EPA listened, too. The final standards that went into effect on September 18 were changed from what EPA had initially proposed. But, more importantly, EPA acknowledged potential difficulties in implementing the new standards. As a result of our hearings and other comments, it is clear that the agency is working hard to fashion a sensible approach to implementation.
Today we will hear about recently published research that supports EPA's decision to set new standards. And we will learn about new technologies that will lower the cost of improving air quality.
This is a familiar pattern. Air quality standards have always been met with claims of economic demise. But then technology catches up. Innovative programs are implemented. Further research bolsters the initial decision. In the end, costs are a fraction of the initial claims, and everyone breathes cleaner air. That is exactly the case with the emissions trading system set up in the 1990 Clean Air Act. Compliance costs are now one- tenth of the initial estimates.
That's not to say we should be making decisions without sufficient information. We need to continue the high caliber research that has been a tradition in the US.
In fact, EPA's funding bill for FY 1998 contains almost $50 million for particulate matter research. That's a credit to Senators Bond and Mikulski.
So I do not think we need this bill to authorize more research. The existing Clean Air Act already provides EPA with the authority it needs to conduct the necessary studies.
What is much more troubling to me, though, is that S. 1084 would revoke the ozone and particulate matter standards that just became effective.Furthermore, it prohibits EPA from revising the standards for at least four years — even if new research uncovers additional health problems resulting from ozone or particulate matter air pollution.
With all respect for the Chairman, I think that this is the wrong approach.
Instead, I believe we must continue to protect public health. Implementing the current standards in a fair and cost-effective manner is the best way to achieve that goal. I hope we can work together in a bi- partisan fashion to ensure that it is done right.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.