EPW Hearing Statement: Clean Air & Nuclear Safety Subcommittee: Cooperative Federalism Under the Clean Air Act: State Perspectives

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety held the hearing, “Cooperative Federalism Under the Clean Air Act: State Perspectives.” Below is the opening statement of Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you Madame Chairman for convening this timely hearing, and thank you to our witnesses for joining us today. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to partner with states to address air pollution, especially air pollution that crosses state borders. The Act ensures all states are good neighbors when it comes to clean air.  

“These protections are critical for my home state of Delaware because we are located at the end of what I call ‘America’s tailpipe.’ This means other states’ dirty emissions from cars and power plants drift east into our state.  This cross-state air pollution makes it impossible for Delaware to meet national health air pollution standards without the cooperation of upwind states and the EPA. 

“EPA Administrator Pruitt repeatedly insists that he is committed to cooperative federalism and that the EPA quote, ‘needs to work together with the states to achieve better outcomes.’ However, like most things pertaining to this EPA Administrator,  Pruitt says one thing, but does another when it comes to cooperative federalism.

“Instead of working with states to create solutions, Pruitt’s EPA has made it harder for states, especially downwind states, to meet clean air goals. For example, Pruitt’s EPA has rejected requests from Northeast states to expand state coordination between upwind and downwind states to address regional ozone pollution. 

“At the same time, Pruitt’s EPA has failed to answer state petitions – four of which are from the State of Delaware – that ask EPA to require upwind power plants to install, or consistently operate already installed, pollution controls. Pruitt’s EPA has also failed to meet Clean Air Act deadlines to designate who is living in unhealthy ozone areas, so states can take further actions to protect public health.

“Furthermore, Pruitt’s EPA is cutting state air program funding, weakening enforcement and rolling back critical clean air protections that will further exacerbate the ongoing air pollution confronting our states. 

“For instance, just two weeks ago, Administrator Pruitt announced that he plans to weaken the greenhouse gas tailpipe standards that had been supported by the auto industry, environmental organizations and the State of California. While I believe that a ‘win-win’ exists that could provide the automobile industry with regulatory certainty in exchange for assuring California that advanced technology vehicles will continue to be incorporated into the fleet well into the future, serious negotiations to achieve that outcome have not yet even begun. ‘Cooperative federalism’ means actually cooperating, and that is simply not what I have seen Administrator Pruitt do. 

“So, we have a situation in which Pruitt’s EPA is denying downwind states’ efforts to hold upwind states accountable for their air pollution contributions; expanding the air pollution that crosses state borders; and taking away critical financial tools and programs to help states address pollution. Cooperative federalism means cooperation between the federal government and the states to solve problems.  As we will hear today from several of our witnesses, many states are not finding much cooperation with this administration, and instead, are finding more problems.