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Statement before the Clean Air Subcommitte of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.

04/08/2003
Statement of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection,
before the
Clean Air Subcommittee of the Committee on Environment and Public Works
United States Senate
Washington, D.C.

April 8, 2003


Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to address the Clear Skies Act of 2003 B legislation that will provide cleaner air for all Americans.

Since the Clean Air Act was enacted in 1970, we have gone a long way in reversing the environmental damage decades of unchecked pollution had inflicted on our environment. In that time frame, we have reduced emissions of six key air pollutants by 25 percent, even as the economy has grown by 160%.

While laudable B there is still more that needs to be done. Children suffer from asthma at alarmingly high rates, many of our national parks are shrouded in a murky haze, and our environment continues to endure damage from poor air quality, even as we have continued to vigorously enforce Clean Air Act regulations.

In order to address this situation, President Bush has proposed Clear Skies B the most significant improvement to the Clean Air Act in over a decade and the most important reduction proposed by any President for the electric utility sector.

Clear Skies is a powerful new tool for the next generation of air quality progress. Building on the success of the Clean Air Act, while recognizing its original command and control approach may no longer be the most efficient way to continue to improve our air.

Indeed, its important to note that Clear Skies is based on the most successful program in over a decade to address air quality B the Acid Rain program. Created in 1990 as part of the Clean Air Act Amendments, the Acid Rain program had its genesis in the innovative idea that harnessing the power of the market could reap impressive environmental gains.

By utilizing a pioneering A cap and trade @ strategy, the Acid Rain program has achieved nearly universal compliance, has cost far less to implement than traditional regulatory approaches, and has already reduced emissions to levels even lower than the government projected. It is this type of success that Clear Skies seeks to emulate.

Far from providing a regulatory escape for old power plants; Clear Skies is aimed directly at previously grand-fathered power plants and would result in almost all facilities of over 300 megawatts and many smaller ones as well taking action on site B something we have never achieved under the Clean Air Act.

Clear Skies will set a uniform, objective standard for mandatory reductions of 70% in three of the most dangerous air pollutants emitted by power plants B nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury.

Although 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.

By moving away from simple command and control toward a more 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 the same time frame.

While the Clean Air Act enables EPA to regulate these three pollutants through the rule- making process, unlike Clear Skies there is no mandatory cap and no guarantee that emissions will reach the lower beneficial levels set by Clear Skies.

When fully implemented, Clear Skies would result in $96 billion in environmental and health benefits each year. Benefits that include virtually eliminating chronic acidity in the Northeastern lakes, improving visibility at our national parks, avoiding12,000 premature deaths and preventing15 million fewer days when sufferers of respiratory illnesses are unable to carry out their normal day to day activities because of bad air quality.

Clear Skies is not a change in direction, but a course adjustment. While our goal of cleaner air remains fixed, we believe that over 30 years of experience and lessons learned from addressing air pollution should be reflected as we move forward. Our environment isn = t static B our efforts to improve it shouldn = t be either.

With or without Clear Skies, there are hundreds of counties all over America that will have to meet Clean Air Act fine particle and ozone standards. Either we move forward with clear legislative guidance or face the uncertainty of regulation, rule-making and litigation. Clear Skies is by far the preferable path.

In the President = s State of the Union address, he stated that Clear Skies is a top domestic priority, and I can attest to the fact that this has not changed. In my recent meetings with the President, he has maintained his commitment to this legislation and told me that he wants to sign this bill this year.

With strong backing from President Bush the time to enact this legislation is now. From improving our air to increasing energy security to protecting human health, Clear Skies is a clear win for the American people. In the coming months, I look forward to working with you to pass this legislation and begin reaping the environmental and health benefits it will secure.

Thank you and I = d be happy to answer any questions at this time.