Sens. Carper, Voinovich, Clinton and Schumer Call for Investments in Clean Air and Emissions Reductions

WASHINGTON – Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), and Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) called for investments in cutting diesel emissions and assisting local communities with efforts to reduce air pollution. In a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies, Sens. Carper, Voinovich, Clinton and Schumer requested $70 million for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) and $270.3 million for state and local air quality grants. 

"As an advocate for cleaner air, I strongly believe providing adequate funding to our state and local environmental agencies is essential to improving our nation’s air quality," said Sen. Carper. "State and local air quality agencies have more responsibilities today, including meeting revised, health-based National Ambient Air Quality Standards, enforcing clean air laws and regulations, developing comprehensive state implementation plans and permitting new facilities. We must ensure our environmental agencies in charge of clean air have adequate funding to carry out these important clean air activities."

"The bottom line is that if we want to clean up our air, improve the environment and protect public health, diesel retrofits are one of the best uses of taxpayers’ money," Sen. Voinovich said.  "This funding is sound environmental, economic and budgetary policy and will go a long way toward helping states and localities meet the nation’s new clean air standards. This is vitally important for Ohio, which could have as many as 32 nonattainment counties under EPA’s new ozone requirements."

"By partnering local, state and federal efforts, we can take steps toward reducing emissions and cleaning our air.  DERA offers a smart solution for cutting emissions from older engines, and state and local air quality grants will let local communities use funds as needed to meet clean air standards.  I urge my colleagues to support these efforts that hold real promise for reducing air pollution," said Sen. Clinton.

"With air quality standards rising, and local budgets tightening, it only makes sense that the federal government should partner with state and local governments to improve our nation’s air quality," said Sen. Schumer. "This important funding is a win-win for government and taxpayers, and will make great strides in cleaning up our air, improving public health and protecting our environment."



The text of the Senators’ letter follows.


April 14, 2008

Dear Chairman Feinstein and Ranking Member Allard:

We respectfully request $70 million for the Diesel Emissions Act (DERA) AND $270.3 million for state and local air quality grants.

Diesel-powered vehicles and equipment play and important role in the nation’s economy and are getting cleaner every day. The administration has developed programs to help address emissions from the estimated 11 million existing diesel engines in the legacy fleet that are not affected by the model year 2007 energy standards. DERA, as authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, is designated to provide significant emissions reductions from these existing engines whether publicly or privately owned. We request $70 million for the DERA program in Fiscal Year 2009.

This investment is needed and is fiscally responsible, yielding one of the greatest cost-benefit ratios of any federal program, according to the Office of Management and Budget’s calculations. It will go a long way toward helping states and localities meet the nation’s clear air standards by encouraging the use of cost-effective emissions reduction strategies. Furthermore, similar to existing federal and state programs, the federal contribution will likely be dwarfed by the funding leveraged from other sources. 

In past budgets, funding for the DERA program has been placed under the State and Tribal Assistance Grants (STAG) account in the budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since DERA requires that 70 percent of the appropriated funds be distributed by EPA and not state and local governments, we recommend that this program be funded through an account other than STAG. 

The second critical component of our request is that you increase funding for state and local air quality grants to $270.3 million, which represents a $54 million increase above FY08 appropriated levels. State and local governments hold primary responsibility for preventing and controlling air pollution and rely on these grants to carry out their core obligations under the Clean Air Act, including monitoring air quality, assessing emissions impacts, permitting and inspecting sources and enforcing laws and regulations

We urge increased funding for these grants because state and local air quality agencies are straining to maintain existing programs and address increasing responsibilities – such as developing State Implementation Plans to attain and maintain National Ambient Air Quality Standards, implementing clean air rules, and addressing toxic air pollutants. At the same time, federal grants for these programs have decreased by approximately one-third in terms of purchasing power over the last 15 years. Recognizing that resources are limited, we are requesting only a portion of the amount that is needed by these agencies.

Sates and localities and environmental, health, user and industry groups all support greater funding for diesel retrofits and clean air agencies because it is sound environmental, economic, and budgetary policy. We urge you to provide $70 million for DERA and $270.3 million for state and local air quality grants in FY09 appropriations.