Statement of Senator Craig Thomas
Hearing on the "Ozone and Particulate Matter Research Act

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing today to discuss S. 1084, the "Ozone and Particulate Matter Research Act of 1997." This is important legislation and I want to compliment you, and Senator Breaux, for the leadership you have taken in pursuing enactment of this initiative.

As most are aware, great uncertainty surrounds the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) rule to tighten National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter and ozone. Since the committee first held hearings on this issue, scientists -- including those on the EPA's own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) -- have testified that the court-ordered deadline did not allow enough time for them to adequately examine the rule. We also heard testimony that more time was needed to conduct additional research.

However, these efforts were thwarted when President Clinton endorsed the standards on July 18, 1997. This was in spite of the fact that more than 250 members of Congress, 27 Governors, labor groups, the agncultural community and the National Conference of Mayors expressed opposition to the new regulations. Even several of President Clinton's agencies have expressed serious doubt.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the EPA's regulation "is certainly one of the most expensive regulations, if not the most expensive regulation faced by small businesses in ten or more years." The Department of Agriculture stated that "farm groups have expressed concern that the proposed standards may impose significant costs on farmers and agribusiness." The Department of Energy encouraged the EPA to "retain the current primary ozone standard," and the Department of the Treasury believes "that many areas cannot achieve the new fine particle standard."

It's clear, Mr. Chairman, that the scientific evidence for these new standards is not complete. Under your proposal, an independent panel would be organized by the National Academy of Sciences to prioritize research needs on the health effects of particulate matter. It's my understanding that the EPA would be required to establish PM monitoring programs through state grants, and a Particulate Matter Interagency Committee would be established to coordinate the activities of federal agencies involved in fine particle research. With regard to ozone, S. 1084 takes the necessary steps to further research programs looking at the adverse health effects of ground-level smog -- especially in urban areas. I'm also encouraged that the bill authorizes adequate funding levels to carry out these research needs for the next five fiscal years.

This is good legislation; I am pleased to be a cosponsor, and willing to help Senator Inhofe and others pass S. 1084 this year. Let me say, however, that placing a four-year moratorium on the EPA's regulations does not mean we are against a clean environment. We need to continue to look for ways to improve and protect public health, but this must be achieved in a balanced manner.

Many uncertainties remain, including the fact that a large number of areas are having trouble meeting current Clean Air Act standards and may never reach attainment with the adoption of these new regulations. Furthermore, the costs will be extreme and we need to make sure this initiative will be worth the enormous price that businesses and individuals will have to bear. I do not believe we should be heading down a regulatory road before additional research is conducted so we truly know which pollutants are causing adverse health effects.

We have a diverse panel before us today, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to their testimony. Thanks again for your leadership and willingness to make the EPA come to the snubbing post and justif\r their actions.