WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing examining several pieces of air monitoring legislation.
Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), as prepared for delivery.
“Thank you, Chairman Carper, and welcome to Representative Blunt Rochester and Senator Collins, my friend. We are happy to have all of the witnesses joining us here today.
“As we consider the topic of air quality monitoring today, it is important to recognize just how much air pollution in the U.S. has fallen over the past few decades.
“With environmental issues, there can be a tendency to fixate on the negative.
“I am an optimist and believe while there is always room for improvement, we need to recognize and applaud what the U.S. has accomplished.
“Looking forward, we must also bear in mind that costs rise and benefits diminish as emissions targets approach the limits of what our technology can actually measure and mitigate.
“According to EPA data, between 1970 and 2021, the combined emissions of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds, were reduced by 78%.
“From 1990 to 2017, emissions of hazardous air pollutants declined by 74%.
“On top of that, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have also decreased, thanks primarily to the shale revolution and American ingenuity, not our regulatory policies.
“While our emissions have been decreasing, this has not been the case around the world.
“According to the World Air Quality report for 2021, using particulate matter as a proxy for air quality, Central and South Asia are home to 46 of the world’s most polluted cities and the trends there are dire.
“Given the fact that we are seeing continual air quality improvements under current authorities in the U.S., it’s unclear to me why the EPA needs new air quality authorities.
“I especially question granting EPA new powers given the agency’s reaction to last month’s decision by the Supreme Court in West Virginia v. EPA.
“That decision should have been a clear signal to the EPA that its planned regulatory overreach needs to be reined it.
“But the administration’s immediate reaction to the West Virginia decision has been quite the opposite, doubling down on plans to serve the interests of progressive environmental groups and the trial bar no matter what the law says, what the costs are to society, or even if there are any meaningful environmental benefits as a result.
“As Administrator Regan said following the decision, ‘[W]e’re going to continue to use every tool in our toolbox, because it's under our legal authority and it’s our obligation to protect communities, reduce pollution that is driving climate change, and provide certainty and transparency for the energy sector to grow the clean energy economy.’
“EPA clearly wants to force wholesale changes on our economy based on overly expansive readings of existing law, regardless of what the Supreme Court has said.
“This mission means reducing affordable, reliable sources of baseload electricity generation and slamming manufacturing with an onslaught of new regulations.
“If EPA is going to continue to read existing statutes well beyond Congress’s intent and pursue regulations beyond the scope of the law, only to continue losing in court, then I have concerns about giving EPA new authorities to abuse, much less delegate those supposed authorities to ideologically-favored advocacy groups to feed fundraising drives and frivolous lawsuits.
“For example, EPA stated in its proposed methane rule that the agency plans to allow third-party monitoring in an upcoming supplemental proposal.
“Congress never intended to empower environmental groups to use taxpayer dollars to purchase and use potentially unreliable monitoring equipment with no oversight and report that data back to the agency.
“And then they have that data used to empower the trial bar to pursue sue-and-settle lawsuits.
“Congress provides funding for air quality management activities, including air quality monitoring, through the annual appropriations process.
“EPA typically receives that funding through State and Tribal Assistance Grants under two primary authorities: Section 103 and Section 105 of the Clean Air Act.
“EPA provides that funding to states and local air agencies, which in turn they decide where and how they want to spend that funding on a range of air quality management activities.
“While the GAO provided suggestions for EPA to improve implementation in a 2020 report, improvements in implementation of existing authority are not the same as granting new authority.
“Indeed, if GAO has concerns with implementation of existing authorities, it begs the question what problem adding new authorities would actually solve.
“I am interested in hearing from our witnesses on their views on those questions and how monitoring is actually conducted in the field under existing law as they react to the legislative proposals before us.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”
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