Chairman Carper’s Opening Statement: Hearing on Clean Air Act Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On September 7, 2022, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing to examine S.2736, the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2021; S. 1475, the Livestock Regulatory Protection Act of 2021; S. 2661, the Smoke-Ready Communities Act of 2021; and S. 2421, the Smoke Planning and Research Act of 2021.

Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Today’s hearing is our committee’s first since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act—the most significant investment to combat climate change in our nation’s history. I’d like to take a moment to discuss the significance of this law.

“This historic law is going to deliver nearly $370 billion in climate and clean energy funding that will put our nation on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. This is a critical down payment on reaching President Biden’s goals of cutting emissions in half by the end of the decade and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. These investments will also significantly reduce emissions that impact our nation’s air quality, helping all Americans breathe a little easier.

“But that’s not all. These historic climate investments are expected to lower energy costs for families and clean up pollution in disadvantaged communities as well.

“In the Environment and Public Works Committee’s title alone, we invest more than $41 billion in climate and environmental justice. This includes new programs that tackle potent methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, leverage investments in projects that combat climate change, focus on environmental justice communities, and strengthen the Clean Air Act—one of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws that we will discuss here today.

“In fact, we added seven new sections to the Clean Air Act as part of the Inflation Reduction Act—the most since the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. These changes will enhance EPA’s ability to help us meet our climate and clean air goals while paying workers a fair wage to do it.

“Passing this law could not have come at a more critical time. Just this week, heavy rainfall flooded streets and highways surrounding Providence, Rhode Island and temperatures in Sacramento, California broke all-time records amid a historic heatwave in the state. It’s quite clear that the climate crisis is here, and this extreme weather is impacting the air we breathe.

“Currently, there are nearly 70 wildfires burning across our country. Along with the destruction that wildfires bring, the smoke they release contains particulate matter and other air pollutants that poses a threat to human health. Smoke doesn’t just threaten nearby communities but also downwind communities, as well. We know that smoke from wildfires in the West has reached as far as my state of Delaware at the end of what’s known as America’s tailpipe.

“As these wildfires become more frequent and severe, so do the emissions they release. The health risks from exposure to this pollution are even greater for disadvantaged communities, including rural communities, which are often more vulnerable to wildfires and the resulting air pollution.

“That’s why we made mitigating the climate and health risks from wildfires eligible for funding under our Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grants program in the Inflation Reduction Act. This new program provides $3 billion in grants and technical assistance for mitigating environmental issues in disadvantaged communities.

“That brings me to Senator Merkley’s two pieces of legislation we are considering today. The Smoke-Ready Communities Act would create a grant program to support communities in preparing for and responding to the potential health risks from harmful air emissions from wildfires.

“The Smoke Planning and Research Act would support community planning and research activities on the effects of smoke emissions from wildfires on human health. I look forward to hearing more about these bills shortly from Senator Merkley and our witnesses.

“Before we do, however, let me turn to another piece of legislation we are examining today: the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports (RPM) Act. This legislation seeks to clarify that racecars do not need to meet Clean Air Act emission requirements. I commend Senator Kelly for his leadership on this legislation, as well as our good friend, Senator Burr, the original sponsor of the bill.

“We can all agree that racecar drivers shouldn’t face liability for the emissions of their cars that are used solely for organized competition. Fortunately, as EPA has informed us, the agency has never sought to assert that individual drivers are liable under the Clean Air Act.

“But, as a $10 million civil penalty announced last week makes clear, bad actors are attempting to exploit the racing community to sell devices that tamper with pollution controls for on-road use. While I do have concerns that this legislation is a solution without a problem, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today and seeing if we can reach an agreement on language to clarify this point without inadvertently creating new uncertainties or opportunities for litigation in the law.

“Finally, the fourth bill we are considering today is Senator Thune’s legislation, the Livestock Regulatory Protection Act. This legislation would restrict EPA’s ability to issue permits under the Clean Air Act for emissions from certain agricultural activities, specifically related to biologic processes from livestock farming.

“As we discuss this legislation today, it’s worth noting that EPA already refrains from issuing such permits. Why is that? One reason is the inclusion of language similar to Senator Thune’s bill in annual appropriations legislation for several years now. That means the decision on whether this restriction is necessary is up to Congress each year—not the EPA. Doing so provides Congress with important flexibility.”