Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer
JANUARY 6, 2011
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
As we start the 112th Congress, I want to talk about the critical work of the Environment and Public Works Committee and the importance of protecting our landmark environmental laws as we work to create jobs and accelerate economic recovery.
We have urgent economic challenges to address, and this Committee will continue to make job creation a top priority. And as we have learned, a healthy environment and a thriving economy go hand in hand.
Since we have put in place these landmark public health and environmental safeguards, most in the 1970's, we have seen tremendous economic growth. In 1970, America's gross domestic product was about $4.26 trillion (in 2005 dollars). In 2009, our GDP was estimated at $12.9 trillion. Our economy has grown three-fold, as we made our air and water cleaner and our families healthier.
But today the EPA itself is under attack by some in the Congress for simply following the laws Congress has passed -- and which, by the way, Republican and Democratic presidents have supported.
It is worth taking a moment to remember what things were like before President Nixon established the EPA in 1970.
The air was heavily polluted in many places, and so were the rivers and lakes that we relied on for drinking water, fishing and business.
Over Thanksgiving in 1966, smog blanketed the Eastern United States and researchers concluded that it killed 24 people a day from November 24 to the 30th. In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire. Swaths of the Great Lakes were lifeless "dead zones." And hundreds of thousands of gallons of sticky, toxic crude oil washed ashore along 35 miles of California's coastline, killing birds and marine life, and threatening fishing and recreation jobs.
But then the federal government acted to save lives and safeguard public health. A series of landmark public health and environmental laws were passed with strong bipartisan support.
In 1970, President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act, and in 1972 the Clean Water Act became the law of our land. President Ford signed the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974 and the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976. President Carter signed Superfund in 1980, and in 2002 President George W. Bush signed the nation's Brownfields law. President Clinton signed the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996.
The successes our nation has witnessed over the decades in achieving the goals of our environmental laws have been accomplished by listening to the science, crafting legislation based on science, and responsibly following these laws.
The success of these laws can be seen today in the health of our children, the strength of our communities and the growth of our economy.
President Obama is continuing the work of former Presidents by enforcing our landmark environmental laws. His EPA is continuing to address serious problems, like air pollution, which can trigger asthma attacks, lost days at school and work, emergency room visits, heart attacks, strokes and premature deaths.
The EPA has used science and followed the rule of law to get lead out of our gasoline, reduce toxins in our drinking water and to decrease smog in the air we breathe. These safeguards have protected our children and family members. That is who these laws protect.
And make no mistake, those who want to undermine these laws will bring harm to the American people.
Take lead in gasoline. Because we banned lead in gas, research has found that the IQs of preschool children in the mid-1990s were higher than they had been in the past, and that has brought our children - and our economy - hundreds of billions of dollars in earning power over their lifetimes due to greater productivity.
Today, the EPA is updating federal clean air safeguards to reduce smog, mercury, toxic soot and carbon pollution, which will mean cleaner air for our families, greater productivity and greater earning power.
Put simply, if you can't breathe, you can't work, and if anyone in Congress tries to move toward dirty air policies, I will take it to the American people and do everything in my power to stop them.
It is important to note that a number of major utilities -- including Constellation Energy, Calpine Energy and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. -- recently weighed in, with a letter to the Wall Street Journal in support of EPA's air quality regulations.
"Our companies' experience complying with air quality regulations demonstrates that regulations can yield important economic benefits, including job creation, while maintaining reliability."
The EPA is also working to reduce carbon pollution by setting out a modest, incremental and flexible plan for the largest facilities in the country to reduce such pollution.
They are following the Clean Air Act, complying with the findings of the United States Supreme Court precedent and acting on science developed during the George W. Bush administration.
These common-sense steps are exactly what Congress has directed EPA to do through duly enacted legislation - upheld by the highest court in the land. Remember, the Supreme Court's April 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA made it crystal clear that that EPA must act to address greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
So when the new Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee says EPA cannot pass by regulation what Congress failed to pass by law, let me correct him - Congress passed our Clean Air laws, Republican Presidents signed them, and those are the laws the EPA is following.
Here is what the Supreme Court said:
"Because greenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act's capacious definition of ‘air pollutant,' we hold that EPA has the statutory authority to regulate the emission of such gasses..."
In other words, by acting, EPA is following the law, and they are doing so in a measured, moderate, responsible way.
EPA is following what the latest scientific research tells us about the threat posed by air pollution, including greenhouse gas pollution.
This Committee will remain vigilant to ensure that politics and special interests do not interfere with the ability of the EPA and the states to act in accordance with the law to respond to what the scientists are telling us.
And what is the current state of the science?
Eighteen leading US scientific organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Geophysical Union, have reaffirmed that global climate change caused by human activities is now underway, and it is a growing threat to society.
The facts are clear, the science is clear, the state of the law is clear, and the need to act is urgent.
And by protecting public health, we can add even more innovation and strength to our economy.
Information cited by the Department of Commerce shows that the U.S. environmental technology industry in 2008 generated approximately $300 billion in revenues, and the air pollution control sector alone produced $18 billion in revenue, and supported almost 1.7 million jobs.
Incentives for clean energy can also be tremendously positive forces for economic growth.
In my home state of California, those investments in clean energy technologies have produced thousands of jobs. The Pew Charitable Trusts reports that 10,000 new clean energy businesses were launched in California from 1998 to 2007. During that period, clean energy investments created more than 125,000 jobs and generated jobs 15 percent faster than the California economy as a whole.
The nation as a whole will benefit in jobs and economic growth with a greater focus on clean energy industries.
By investing in clean energy technologies today, our U.S. businesses, large and small, can lead the world in creating jobs and generating revenue in this industry, while helping to protect public health. That is why I will be working to ensure that the EPA continues to protect the American people, and to protect the ability of California and the other states to continue to address carbon pollution. The people of California were clear in the last election: they stood up to big oil and rejected a referendum that would have suspended our clean air laws.
Let me send a clear message to Chairman Upton, the new Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. I congratulate him on his new position. And I want to tell him that I will use every tool available to me as Chairman of this Committee and as Senator from California to oppose any legislative effort that threatens the health, or safety, or well-being of the people of America. That includes his desire to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from carrying out its responsibilities under the Clean Air Act.
In the past, Congressman Upton has acknowledged that climate change is an urgent issue. A statement on his web site last month said: "Climate change is a serious problem that necessitates serious solutions." Unfortunately, that statement has now disappeared, but he was on the right track then, and I urge him to go back to the clear truth he once stood behind.
Science and the facts will be my guide, as well as the laws that have protected our air and water and our people for decades. We must protect our landmark environmental laws for the American people - our families' health and our economy's strength depend on it. We must make sure that is where our focus remains as we move ahead.
Before I conclude, I want to respond to the House Republican attack on the Highway Trust Fund.
The House rules approved this week no longer guarantee that fees collected from highway users and deposited into the Highway Trust Fund will be used for infrastructure improvements. This is wrong - the funds in the Highway Trust Fund come from user fees, paid by the people, and they have a right to know that those funds will be spent improving our transportation infrastructure. These longstanding guarantees provide certainty to States that allows them to plan for and construct important transportation projects, which create excellent jobs for today and tomorrow.
Let me be crystal clear - I stand with all the stakeholders - including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the Associated General Contractors, the United States Conference of Mayors, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the workers across America who build our roads and bridges and transit systems, including the Laborers International Union of North America; and the International Union of Operating Engineers, who opposed this House rule. I will fight to the end to prevent any efforts by the House to use this rules change to reduce much-needed job creating investments in our highways, bridges, and transit systems.
In conclusion, the American people must understand now that attacking the agency that protects their health is not positive change, and raids on the Highway Trust Fund mean job losses and a further deterioration of our roads, bridges, and transit systems.
This is not positive change for our people, and I will do everything in my power to fight for the health of the American people and the jobs they need.
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