Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air Wednesday
5 February, 1997.

Mr. Chairman, I believe that as Senators, we have no greater duty and responsibility than to protect the health and safety of the American people.

The Clean Air Act does that and is one of our most successful environmental laws. It is also often referred to as one of our most complex, comprehensive and far reaching environmental laws.

Enormous progress has been made in the last twenty five years to control and reduce air pollution. For example, exposure of San Francisco Bay area residents to dangerous levels of ozone has been reduced by 93% since 1970. Last year, the Bay area became the largest metropolitan area in the country to reach attainment of current federal ozone standard.

However my state of California continues to face the most challenging and intractable air pollution problems in the Nation. Our South Coast Basin has the most polluted air in the country, and while we have seen a steady improvement of air quality, most of Southern and Central California does not yet meet the current federal ozone standard or the particulate matter standard.

Air pollution is a very serious problem. For example, according to the EPA, the current annual average concentrations of fine particulate matter in Southeast Los Angeles County may be responsible for up to 3,000 deaths annually, and more then 52,000 incidents of respiratory symptoms including 1,000 hospital admissions.

Even if current federal standards were achieved, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates 300-700 fine particle related deaths and more than 40,000 fine particle related health effects.

Young children constitute the largest group at high risk from exposure to air pollutants. They breath 50% more air by body weight than the average adult. In California alone there are over six million children under the age of fourteen and approximately ninety percent of them live in areas that fail to meet state and federal standards.

How are our children being affected? Studies show health effects ranging from 20 to 60 percent losses of lung capacity Despite this, representatives of industry claim that a thirty percent loss of lung capacity is not really a health effect because it is a only a temporary reversible loss in lung function. Tell that to a mother whose asthmatic child has to stay home or visit the hospital emergency room on a regular basis. Tell that to a mother whose teenage son suffers from continuous coughing, throat irritations, chest pain and shortness of breath.

And what about the potential of causing permanent damage? We have studies of laboratory animals which indicate that long term exposure to ozone causes permanent damage to the lungs.

Mr. Chairman, in 1988 California expressed belief in the need for stronger clean air standards when we passed the most stringent ozone and particulate matter state standards in the country.

And let me put this in context - we are committed to continuing to make improvements in air quality in a state that is projected to have double digit growth in population (18%) in the next ten years. By the year 2005, we expect to have 38.2 million people in California -- up from 32.2 million. We'll have a lot more cars on our highways.

The Clean Air Act directs the Administrator to set standards at levels that in the judgment of the Administer protect the public health with an adequate margin of safety. Health must continue to be the marker upon which standards are based. And those standards must be based on science. Once health-based standards are set, costs should play an important role in implementation and timetables.

A lot of serious questions have been raised about the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal. Industry is questioning the strength of the scientific basis for the proposal.

In our search for answers, I think we need to look very closely at what the EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee recommended.

They reviewed the available science and made a determination that there is an adequate scientific basis for the Administrator to revise the standards. For both ozone and particulates, the committee approved the EPA documents and the recommended specific ranges for new more stringent standards. The Committee unanimously supported moving from the current 1-hour ozone standard to an 8-hour standard. Nineteen of twenty one CASAC members supported moving to a fine particle standard for particulates.

As we hear the criticisms of industry, we must constantly keep their final recommendation in our minds. We must not let the complexity of the debate let us forget them.

Mr. Chairman, I am going to work aggressively to pursue answers to the serious questions that have been raised about the EPA proposal and I look forward to working with you, and the other members of this subcommittee.

Mr. Chairman I would like to welcome Dr. Menzel and Dr. Wyzga who have come from California to testify before this subcommittee today.

Thank you.