Carper Hearing Explores Repercussions of Clean Air Ruling

Court Ruling Vacating CAIR Creates Opportunity for Carper's Broader CAPA Bill

WASHINGTON – Congress must pass clean air legislation now that a recent court ruling has brought many clean air remedies to a halt and created difficulties and confusion for the federal government, east and mid-western states, companies and environmental groups alike, said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) today.

“As Albert Einstein once said, ‘in the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity,’” Sen. Carper said in opening his Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety hearing, stressing that Congress has a new opportunity to craft comprehensive national clean air legislation that protects and improves public health.

Sen. Carper specifically called today’s hearing to help sort out the substantial environmental implications of a July 11 ruling in which a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Air Interstate Rule, better know as CAIR. 

CAIR, finalized in 2005, relied on a cap-and-trade scheme to help reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from fossil fuel facilities in 28 eastern and mid-western states and the District of Columbia.

The EPA rule was intended to help clean up air in states like Delaware, impacted by upwind polluters. CAIR was estimated to improve the quality of life for some 8,000 children and adults in Delawarealone who suffer with asthma.

“As many of you know, Delaware struggles to meet its clean air goals because we’re located – along with our neighbors – at the end of America’s tailpipe,” Sen. Carper said. “We simply can’t clean up our air along the eastern seaboard unless upwind states meet their obligations.”

Sen. Carper said the promises of great health benefits in Delaware and beyond came to an abrupt halt when the court ruled earlier this month that not only were EPA’s methods for developing CAIR “fundamentally flawed,” but that “EPA must redo its analysis from the ground up.”

“In other words, eight years have gone by without any meaningful, substantive action on the clean air debate,” Sen. Carper said. “This inaction means tens for thousands of Americans will die prematurely from lung-related deaths who didn’t have to die. It means that Congress and this White House failed to do what’s right.”

That’s why attention has now turned to the Congress. In addition to today’s hearing, Sen. Carper will hold other hearings and roundtables on these clean air issues throughout the fall to highlight various perspectives on how to move forward on clean air legislation.

“Let me be clear. I’m not going to wait another eight years to do what we should have done eight years ago, and that is pass a strong, comprehensive clean air bill that makes deep and meaningful reductions in mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide,” he said.

Last year, Sen. Carper introduced his Clean Air Planning Act of 2007 (CAPA), which would significantly reduce unhealthy emissions of mercury, as well as the harmful pollutants (nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide) that produce smog and acid rain. In addition, this four-pollutant bill would set up a mandatory cap-and-trade program for utilities to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide, which causes global warming.

“CAPA provides an aggressive, yet achievable schedule, for power plant to reduce emissions from nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury and carbon dioxide,” Sen. Carper said. “While CAPA is great starting point, but I want to say that all options are on the table. What matters most to me is not what legislative vehicle we use to clean up our air, but rather that we get something done that is comprehensive, meaningful, and is stronger than what the administration’s CAIR and better than its seriously flawed mercury rule.”

Sen. Carper concluded that:

1. Congressional legislation gets air pollution control out of the courts to ensure clean air actions are taken on schedule;

2. CAIR only covered the eastern United States. Now Congress can write clean air legislation that covers the whole country, not only saving more lives but preventing polluters from moving to unregulated areas to escape environmental controls;

3. CAIR only addressed SO2 and NOx, but CAPA legislation also addresses toxic mercury emissions (courts have also recently vacated the EPA’s mercury rulings) and global warming caused by carbon dioxide. According to EPA’s own analysis, CAPA greatly improves on the health benefits of the CAIR, helping to avoid 10,000 more premature deaths.