Statement of Senator Max Baucus
July 24, 1997

Senator Inhofe, I'd like to start by thanking you for convening this hearing. And I'd also like to thank Assistant Administrator Mary Nichols for her testimony today.

Since EPA released its proposal for new ozone and PM2.5 standards, we have heard from just about everyone interested in this issue. Scientists, industry, farmers and ranchers, environmentalists, health professionals and state and local governments. And EPA has also received over 50,000 comments both pro and con.

Those comments have shown that while clean air is neither easy nor inexpensive, the importance of protecting public health cannot be shown on a balance sheet. The fact remains that air pollution has costly impacts on our workforce, health care system, environment, and our quality of life.

Exposure to ozone makes breathing difficult for the young and the old. Furthermore, particulate emissions are causing people to die prematurely. And, although we don't have all the answers, we need to take action now to improve the quality of our nation's air.

But despite the great importance of this issue or maybe because of it we have had difficulty talking calmly and thoughtfully about how to get the clean air our citizens want in a way that makes sense for our local economies. For instance, this Spring there was great hysteria among folks who were told that the EPA was preparing to snuff out their barbecues. This summer farmers in my state of Montana were told that the EPA was going to force them to change the way they do their jobs. But Administrator Browner has assured us on the record that neither of these things are true.

In addition, the Administrator responded to our concerns about implementing these new standards. EPA's strategy will give areas more time to meet the new standards. It creates a program to deal with the ozone transport problem helping many downwind areas meet the new standard without having to adopt any new controls. And it sets up a monitoring system that will help scientists answer some of the questions about fine particles that have generated so much debate.

EPA predicts that by achieving the new PM2.5 standard, premature deaths will be reduced by 38 percent each year. That is an impressive statistic. But no lives will be saved if states can't meet the new standards. It's time to put the last several months behind us and get on with the job at hand. Namely, helping EPA and the states identify the most sensible, cost-effective ways to implement these new standards.

So, Mr. Chairman, I look forward to Ms. Nichols' testimony and today's discussion about how we will proceed in implementing these new standards. I believe that EPA is headed in the right direction. It is this Committee's responsibility to ensure that happens, and I look forward to working with the Administration to be sure it does. We must implement these standards in a way that makes sense for our economy and provides cleaner air for all Americans.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.