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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

National Conference of State Legislatures, Washington,D.C.

03/07/2003
Talking Points for Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
National Conference of State Legislatures
The White House
Washington, D.C.

March 7, 2003


Thank you Jim (Kelly) for that introduction. Good morning everyone. It = s an honor to be here today with many of the leaders from state legislatures all across the country.

As a former Governor and county official, I know that it is at the state and local level that things really get done, especially in the area of the environment, and we depend upon strong partnerships with the states in order to achieve real results.

I = d like to talk with you today about the work this Administration is doing on behalf of the environment, specifically our efforts to make our air cleaner through the President= s innovative initiative B Clear Skies, an issue that has very real implications for states.

First, though, there has been a lot of confusing and misleading information about our clean air policies, specifically mixing up New Source Review with Clear Skies, which are two distinctly different issues.

So, I = d like to take a minute to set the record straight. As you know, NSR is a program under the current Clean Air Act to require manufacturing facilities and power plants to modernize pollution controls when upgrading their facilities. Good in theory, but it hasn = t worked well in practice.

Under the law, there are no clear, objective standards under which NSR applies, and this has made NSR very difficult to enforce and comply with, so much so that the Clinton Administration began looking at ways to reform NSR nearly a decade ago.

Recently, we finalized five reforms to NSR B reforms that will remove the disincentives that have actually inhibited the installation of pollution controls at many older manufacturing plants B manufacturing plants B not power plants. Yesterday, the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit denied a motion by several states to stay our final NSR reform rules that we published at the end of last year.

We = re pleased that the courts are allowing us to go forward with these important rules, and we will continue to work with the states to implement these reforms.

But the debate over NSR reform and power plant pollution will be immaterial if Congress passes Clear Skies. Clear Skies will sweep away all the ambiguity and confusion of NSR as it applies to power plants.

The Clear Skies Act, which was introduced in Congress last week, will require mandatory reductions B that = s mandatory reductions B of 70 percent in three of the most dangerous air pollutants emitted by power plants B nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury.

This is especially important for states, because as you can see from the map we have here and in your books, there are currently hundreds of counties that are in violation of fine particle and ozone standards.

Without Clear Skies, under the Clean Air Act, the responsibility of bringing those counties into attainment falls to the states. I know from experience that this can be a very resource intensive and politically difficult process.

With Clear Skies, as the map shows, the vast majority of these counties will be brought into attainment B without making states do the heavy lifting.

For Western states, who benefit from having much cleaner air than the rest of the country, Clear Skies is still important. It will build upon the work of the Western Regional Air Partnership and will ensure that the West can continue its economic growth without degrading its environment.

At a time when state budgets around the country are tight, Clear Skies also makes sense economically. Clear Skies moves us away from command and control toward using the power of the market to achieve results. Rather than setting individual targets on particular smokestacks, it sets mandatory reductions on the industry as a whole B and gives facilities flexibility in determining how to meet those reductions.

This approach is not untried. It is modeled on the acid rain program that was part of the Clean Air Act amendments passed in 1990. That program has had enormous success in reducing the threat of acid rain.

It has achieved significant reductions in sulfur dioxide emissions B the pollutant that leads to acid rain B with near universal compliance and at lower costs than anticipated. Clear Skies will take a similar approach and set a clear, objective standard for mandatory reductions. And, while it sets the goal, Clear Skies does not regulate the path to meeting that goal.

This flexibility enables states and facilities to pursue the most cost effective approach to cleaner air and helps ensure our ability as a nation to respond quickly and efficiently to changes in the energy marketplace. As a result, Clear Skies will also help maintain energy diversity and continue the trend of lower electricity prices.

The Clean Air Act has gone far in improving the quality of the air we breathe, but Clear Skies will go even further. By using this proven market-based approach, we will remove 35 million more tons of NOx, SO2 , and mercury from the air over the first ten years of our Clear Skies Act than what the current Clean Air Act would achieve in that time frame. And, we will do it without inviting endless, costly litigation and without sending energy costs through the roof.

Clear Skies will also provide dramatic health benefits to the American people every year, including saving 12,000 lives and preventing15 million fewer days when sufferers of asthma and other respiratory illnesses are unable to work, go to school, or carry out their normal day to day activities because of bad air quality. In each of your packets are state specific impact data.

Across our nation, Clear Skies will result in measurable improvements to the environment. From virtually eliminating chronic acidity in the northeastern lakes to restoring visibility at our national parks, Clear Skies will produce measurable results above and beyond what is achievable under current law.

Clear Skies is a clear win not only for the American people, but for state governments as well. Clear Skies will improve our air, protect public health, increase energy security, and save valuable state resources. With strong support from the White House, the time to enact Clear Skies is now, and I look forward to working with all of you to ensure its passage.

Thank you and I = d be happy to take any questions.