EPW Oversight Hearing on EPA's Proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for Existing Power Plants
July 23, 2014
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
This oversight hearing will examine the critically important steps that the Obama Administration is taking to address climate change by reducing carbon pollution. Today we will focus on the President's new proposal to reduce dangerous carbon pollution from the biggest source - power plants.
Power plants account for nearly 40% of all carbon pollution released into the air, but currently there are no limits on the amount of carbon pollution that power plants can release into our air.
The President's plan is a win-win for the American people, because by addressing climate change through carbon pollution reduction, we can cut many types of air pollutants that also threaten human health.
Climate change and rising temperatures will lead to increased ground level ozone and smog which could worsen respiratory illnesses like asthma, increased air pollutants from wildfires, and more heat-related and flood-related deaths.
When the President announced his power plant proposal at the Children's National Medical Center here in Washington, D.C., he visited with young asthma patients to highlight the health impacts of air pollution and to underscore how important addressing dangerous carbon pollution is to our children's health.
This proposal would play a vital role in protecting public health and saving thousands of lives. It will avoid up to 3,700 cases of bronchitis in children, 150,000 asthma attacks, 3,300 heart attacks, 6,600 premature deaths and 490,000 missed days at school and work.
I often say, if people can't breathe, they can't go to work or school. More than 9 percent of American children are already living with asthma, and it is the third leading cause of hospitalizations for children. We all benefit from having clean air to breathe - it literally saves lives.
We need to take action now to protect families and communities from the mounting impacts of climate change and dangerous carbon pollution. A recent Congressionally-required National Climate Assessment report tells us that we could see a 10 degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature if we do not act to limit dangerous carbon pollution now.
The President's new proposal will not only protect public health and save lives, it will enable America to lead the way to avert the most calamitous impacts of climate change -- such as sea level rise, dangerous heat waves, and economic disruption. We must safeguard our children, our grandchildren, and future generations. As the President has stated, "we have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that's not irrevocably polluted or damaged."
The Obama administration clearly gets it and so do the American people. According to a recent Washington Post-ABC poll, a bipartisan majority of the American people want federal limits on carbon pollution. Approximately 70 percent say the federal government should require limits to carbon pollution from existing power plants, and 70 percent support requiring states to limit the amount of carbon pollution within their borders.
Just last month, this Committee heard from four former EPA Administrators who served under Republican Presidents, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, and they all agreed that climate change requires action now and it should not be a partisan issue.
The President's plan relies on the authorities under the Clean Air Act, which was created with an overwhelming bipartisan consensus. In 1970, the Clean Air Act passed the Senate by a vote of 73-0, passed the House by 375-1, and was signed into law by President Nixon.
In 1990, revisions to the Clean Air Act passed the Senate by a vote of 89-11and by 401-21 in the House, and were signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.
The Clean Air Act has a proven track record of success. Since 1970, emissions of common air pollutants have dropped 72 percent, while the U.S. GDP has grown by 219 percent, and total private sector jobs have increased by 101 percent.
The President's proposal will create thousands of jobs, while ensuring that big polluters reduce their dangerous contributions to climate change. The plan is also respectful of the states' roles and allows major flexibility.
Climate change is happening now and we cannot afford to wait. I commend the President and EPA for taking action to protect our families and children from the worst impacts of climate change.
I want to thank EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for being with us today, and I look forward to hearing her testimony.