Mr. Chairman, I have likened the assault on our lakes, our rivers and our forests by acid rain as a form of "airborne terrorism." For decades, power plant smokestacks -- hundreds of feet high -- have been spewing pollutants into the air where they are carried via the jet-stream to our state. Once over New York and other Northeastern states, they fall to earth, poisoning our environment. These pollutants have had a devastating effect. In fact, right now in the Adirondacks -- New York's 6 million acre state park -- 500 of the areas 2,800 lakes and ponds are too acidic to support life. Further, according to the EPA, if nothing else is done to reduce acid rain by the year 2040, 43` of the Adirondacks water-bodies will be acidic. That's just plain wrong. The steps we have taken to combat acid rain have been important, but, they have not been enough. We can do more and we must do more.
When Congress passed the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, we thought we had tackled the pollution problem that sulfur dioxide was causing. Today, nearly a decade later, it is abundantly clear that the steps taken under the Clean Air Act to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions are insufficient to protect regions such as the Adirondacks from acid rain. Scientists now tell us that, along with sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides (NOx) play an important role in the acid rain problem. EPA's own reports -~ released only under the threat of litigation -- clearly show that additional steps are needed, and this is the purpose of the legislation sponsored by Senator Moynihan and myself and Congressman Solomon in the House.
Critics of our bill will point out that the EPA recently issued a State Implementation Plan -- or SIP call -- for 22 states. This SIP call will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides or NOx, from large stationary sources (power plants) by over 75\ in the summer months, but, less than 40% annually. While a step in the right direction, I do not believe that the EPA's actions will be sufficient to end the acid rain problem in the Northeast. In fact, I believe that additional measures will be required.
Our bill includes provisions to reduce annual nationwide NOx emissions by 70` from 1990 levels and not the 40` average annual reduction under the SIP call. Unlike the SIP call, our bill provides EPA with a clear legislative authority to establish a NOx "cap-and-trade" program patterned after the successful sulfur dioxide cap-and-trade program that was created under the Clean Air Act. Our bill also would require 50` more reductions of sulfur dioxide emissions annually beyond those called-for in the 1990 Clean Air Act.
Critics of this bill are going to say that it costs too much. I disagree. When the Clean Air Act was enacted, it was expected that an allowance to emit a single ton of sulfur dioxide would cost over $1,500 on the open market. Today, that allowance costs between $150 and $200. It is a clear example that, given the chance, business and industry will devise the most cost~ effective means to meet pollution reduction goals. It also demonstrates that additional reductions of sulfur dioxide are both achievable and cost effective.
In addition, EPA's SIP call is aimed at reducing NOx emissions during the summer to reduce ozone. Our bill requires emission reductions all year round, with special emphasis on the summer months. However, one important fact is our bill does not ignore the critical winter months. What many people forget is acid deposition, falling as snow, accumulates over the winter in the snow-pack. When warm weather comes, and the snow melts, the accumulated acid in the snow is released into water bodies in a single shock-load during Spring runoff. Such a massive influx has a harmful effect on the development of fish and other aquatic life.
Finally, I want to make it clear that the acid rain problem is not limited to New York; this is not just a bill to cut down on acid rain in our state alone. We believe that a number of states will benefit from our bill. For example:
1) An organization of New England States and the Eastern Provinces of Canada has issued a resolution calling for action to decrease the impact of acid rain in their region with detailed steps to reduce their own emissions. Their recommendations are nearly identical to those called-for in our bill.
2) The same emissions that cause acid rain in the Adirondacks are causing nutrient-loading in the Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound. This process depletes oxygen from the water, killing fish and other aquatic life.
3) According to the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP) report released this summer, acid deposition is damaging forest lands around the nation including the Colorado Rockies and from the southern Appalachians to the tip of Maine.
4) The national sportsmen's group, Trout Unlimited, recently released a study of Virginia's trout streams indicating the need to reduce the levels of acid deposition by 70` to prevent the acidification of half of Virginia's trout streams.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the EPA's initiative in issuing the SIP call to combat ozone is the right thing to do. However, the EPA's measure is clearly not enough to protect the nation's sensitive water-bodies and forests from acid rain. To fully combat the effects of acid rain -- this "airborne terrorism" -~ we need this legislation to make the significant cuts in the pollutants that cause acid rain. Those of us in states that are being subjected to this onslaught are saying enough. We have no more tolerance for this assault on our health and the environment.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing today.