Contact Us

Newsroom

Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Commerce

10/01/1997
          Oral Testimony Carol M. Browner, Administrator
               U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
                            before the
                  U.S. House of Representatives
                      Committee on Commerce
                         October 1, 1997

     Mr. Chairman -- and Mr. Chairman -- members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to discuss EPA's newly updated public health air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter

     These standards -- which were announced by the President in June and which I signed in July -- are the most significant step we've taken in a generation to protect the American people -- and especially our children -- from the health hazards of air pollution.

     Together, they will protect 125 million Americans, including 35 million children, from the adverse health effects of breathing polluted air.

     They will prevent approximately 15,000 premature deaths, about 350,000 cases of aggravated asthma and nearly a million cases of significantly decreased lung function in children.

     Clearly, the best available science shows that the previous standards were not adequately protecting Americans from the hazards of breathing polluted air.  Revising these standards will bring enormous health benefits to the nation.

     That is why we took action on clean air.

     Mr. Chairman, these proposed standards are based on the most thorough and most extensive scientific review ever conducted by our agency for a rulemaking.

     Our review of particulate matter has taken nearly 10 years.  And it has been nearly 20 years since the last time the ozone standard was thoroughly reviewed.

    These updated standards are based on more than 250 of the latest, best scientific studies on ozone and PM -- all of them published, peer-reviewed, fully-debated and thoroughly analyzed by the independent scientific committee, CASAC.  We're talking literally peer review of peer review of peer review.

     It is good science.  It is solid science.

     And, if I may say so, EPA has done an extraordinary job keeping Congress apprised.  We have responded to 258 congressional letters and provided 17,400 pages of documents regarding these new air standards.  Top agency officials have appeared and testified at a dozen congressional hearings.

     We welcome your interest and your oversight.  And we will continue to do whatever we can to satisfy any future requests.

     Let me turn now to EPA's common sense plan for implementing these new standards -- and achieving cleaner air in our communities.  This plan is designed to give states, local governments and businesses the flexibility they'll need to meet these standards in a reasonable, affordable and cost-effective way.

     Notice that I said "flexibility....to meet the standards."  I am not suggesting -- nor have I ever suggested -- that these new, more protective air quality standards can be achieved effortlessly.  We have a lot of work ahead of us -- and by "we" I mean not only EPA, but state and local governments and industries, as well.

     No doubt you have heard the allegation that I have been going around the country and disingenuously promising industry after industry that these updated standards will have no effect on them at all.

     That simply has not been the case, Mr. Chairman.  From the very beginning, what I have said, time and again, on implementation of these new standards -- in hearings before this
committee, in meetings with industry officials, in speeches, in letters, on the telephone and so on -- has carried essentially the same message:

     First, we will continue on the path of progress toward meeting the previous air quality standards, respecting agreements already reached between communities and businesses.

     Second, no "non-attainment" designations will be made for particulate matter until the completion of another five-year review on the health effects of fine particulates.

     And third, the necessary reductions in ozone-forming emissions will come from large industrial sources, such as major power plants.  Not from small businesses.  But from these large industrial smokestacks.  

     That is where we will focus because, frankly, that's where most of these emissions come from.  And that's where we stand to gain the most in our efforts to reduce the regional, or "transported," ozone that we now understand is a major part of the smog problem in so many of our metropolitan areas.  It is by far the most cost-effective way to address this problem.

     Our next phase of implementation is a regional strategy, developed collectively by 37 states, to target major utilities for pollution reductions through a market-based "cap and trade" program.  Soon, EPA will ask the states to submit their plans for achieving the necessary ozone reductions through this regional approach.

     Once this plan is given a chance to work, we believe that the vast majority of cities that do not currently meet the new ozone standard will be able to do so without any additional new local pollution controls or measures.

     In fact, we are so confident this will happen that we will not be treating as "non-attainment" the states that fail to meet the new, updated standard for ozone -- as long as they are participating in the regional emissions trading strategy.  Instead,  these states will receive a "transitional" classification -- one that has been carefully crafted under the authority provided by the Clean Air Act -- which will enable them to avoid undue local planning requirements and restrictions on economic growth.

     So what will this mean for electricity consumers in the Midwest and elsewhere?

     According to a recent study conducted by Public Service Electric and Gas, a New Jersey-based utility company, the costs of complying with the "cap and trade" program for ozone-causing emissions will be only a small fraction -- three to five percent -- of the amount of money utilities will save as the industry is deregulated.

     The fact is that the technology to reduce ozone-causing emissions -- and do it cost-effectively -- already exists.

     One of the nation's largest coal-fired utilities -- one that is based in Ohio -- has already announced that it will make major reductions in its emissions, in advance of any emission trading requirements.  Clearly, this utility has recognized the cost-advantages of newly-available technologies, as well as the importance of a regional approach to reducing ozone-causing emissions.

     The point is -- this regional ozone reduction plan is not pie-in-the-sky.  It is workable.  It can be done.  It builds on the work of the states.  And we are going to see cleaner air in our cities once it goes into effect.

    So, Mr. Chairman, there is no good reason for repealing or delaying these standards.  There is every reason to get on with the process of implementing them and thereby protecting the health of the American people -- which is precisely what the Clean Air Act requires us to do.

     Our common-sense implementation plan is designed to address the concerns that have been raised about these new standards.  It provides flexibility.  And, in contrast to proposed legislation to revoke the standards, it respects the compelling scientific evidence about the health effects of air pollution.

     We ought to give this plan a chance to work.

     No one is saying that meeting these standards is going to be easy.  It will challenge us in many ways.  But this nation -- its industries, its communities, its people -- is fully capable of rising to that challenge.  We are the world's leaders in technology.  And, if the past is any indication, new technologies will continue to emerge, enabling us to make further strides in reducing pollution in the very near future.

     Remember, the goal is clean air for future generations.  Working together -- in the extraordinary way that EPA is doing with states, with local governments, with businesses and with communities -- we can meet this goal and not sacrifice economic vitality.  We've done it before.  We can do it again.

     Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I am happy to respond to any questions that you or other committee members may have.