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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Clear Skies at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Knoxville, Tennessee

07/01/2002
Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman

Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

at the

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Knoxville, Tennessee

July 1, 2002

Good afternoon. It = s great to be here with Senator (Bill) Frist.


The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is truly a national treasure and one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

With over half a million acres, this park is one of the largest protected areas in the east.

Established in 1934, it is a sanctuary for diverse plant and animal species, beautiful ancient mountains, and a culture rich in history.

As we stand here, high atop these mountains, it is easy to feel far removed from civilization.

But, unfortunately, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not immune to the environmental challenges we face across our country.

One of our greatest challenges is air quality.

Here in the park, air pollution reduces visibility, damages streams, soils, and vegetation, and threatens human health.

Similar effects can be seen nationwide.

That = s why earlier this year President Bush proposed the Clear Skies Initiative. Clear Skies is an aggressive initiative that will dramatically cut air pollution from power plants by requiring significant reductions in sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury emissions.

Considering what these pollutants cost us in health problems, smog, and damage to the environment, these reductions are extremely important.

We = re modeling Clear Skies on the innovative Acid Rain program created in 1990.

The A cap and trade @ strategy of the acid rain program has achieved nearly 100 percent industry compliance, it has cost far less to implement than anticipated, and it has reduced emissions in its early years to levels even lower than the government established.

We expect the same success with Clear Skies. Clear Skies will cut air pollution further, faster, cheaper and with far greater certainty than under the existing Clean Air Act B not by replacing, but by enhancing it.

Clear Skies complements existing Clear Air Act programs B such as the new national air quality standards B by specifically addressing the harmful pollutants released from power plants.

With Clear Skies, we will remove 35 million more tons of pollution over the next decade than under current law.

I = m pleased to announce that today, all across America, we are releasing specific information about the health and environmental benefits of Clear Skies. This new information will help individuals understand what Clear Skies means to them.

As we stand here in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, I = d like to take a moment to tell you about some of the specific benefits the 5.6 million residents of this state will enjoy under Clear Skies.

In Tennessee, the annual health benefits of Clear Skies will include:

S Savings of approximately $4 billion a year in health care costs;

S Approximately 500 fewer premature deaths and 300 fewer cases of chronic bronchitis every year;

S Over 9,000 fewer asthma attacks annually; and

S Over 80,000 fewer lost work days each year due to respiratory symptoms.

When fully implemented, Clear Skies will also result in important environmental benefits in Tennessee, including:

S Substantial reductions in sulfur dioxide (72%), nitrogen oxide (75%), and mercury (66%) emissions by power generators;

S Significant improvements in visibility; and

S For the first time, every Tennessee county will meet the 8-hour ozone standard.

These benefits will help ensure that the people who live, work, and visit areas like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are able to breathe easier and enjoy the spectacular vistas from places like Clingman =s Dome.

And if we look at the nationwide benefits of Clear Skies, it = s more good news.

Citizens from coast to coast will experience dramatic improvements in their air quality as the majority of counties across the U.S. meet fine particle and ozone standards.

By 2020, we = ll save over $93 billion per year in health care costs.

Every year, we = ll also see approximately 12,000 fewer premature deaths, 10,500 fewer trips to the hospital per year, and over 13 million fewer missed days of work and school due to asthma and breathing problems. And these are just a few of the nationwide health and environmental benefits we anticipate with Clear Skies.

As you can see, Clear Skies is the key to real, significant progress in our fight against air pollution.

The health of our families B and of the environment B depends on it.

Thank you.