Sen. Carper Credits EPA Decision to Tighten Ozone Controls

Senator Disagrees with Suggested Changes to Federal Clean Air Act

WASHINGTON – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruling announced late today falls short of scientific recommendations, but marks a positive step forward in protecting public health in Delaware and across the nation. In addition, Sen. Carper expressed concerns over proposed changes to the Clean Air Act.

“This EPA decision is welcome news, especially for those of us along the eastern seaboard where there are too many days when it feels like we are breathing from American’s tail pipe,” Sen. Carper said.  “While I sought even tighter restriction on ozone pollution, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson has taken a needed step forward to address ozone, the primary cause of smog, which we know is linked to many of our nation’s health problems, including asthma, respiratory illnesses and even death.”

In response to Administrator Johnson’s proposed changes to the Clean Air Act, Sen. Carper said he disagreed that the changes would strengthen the EPA’s ability to protect the nation’s health.   

“The National Ambient Air Quality Standards have been a very successful measure of the nation’s air quality,” Sen. Carper said. “I firmly believe those standards must continue to be based solely on rigorous scientific study and our understanding of air pollution’s impacts on our health and environment.  Administrator Johnson’s suggestion that the EPA should consider the costs of attainment when it is determining a public health standard would undercut the integrity of these standards. Costs should be considered when determining how to comply with these standards not what the standard should be.”

In Delaware, 6,000 adults suffer from asthma and many find it hard to work or even carry out daily activities during the summer months when ozone pollution is at its worst. Delaware also has the highest asthma rate in the nation among children under age 18, affecting nearly 12 percent of all young people statewide. Nationally, about 27 million children age 13 and younger are exposed to unhealthy levels of ozone.

Sen. Carper held a hearing in his clean air subcommittee last year to review EPA’s proposed revisions to the national health standards for ozone. During that hearing and in a follow-up letter to EPA Administrator Johnson, the senator urged the agency to set a standard that “followed the path of science to better protect human health.”

With today’s action, the EPA will require states to meet a more stringent clean air standard, by tightening the national ozone standard from 0.08 parts per million to 0.075 parts per million. States with areas that fail to meet these new national ambient air quality standards will be required to develop a State Implementation Plan outlining how the state will meet and maintain compliance with the new ozone standard. 

“While there is scientific evidence to support lowering the standard even more, this is an important step toward protecting the public from the physical and economic burdens of dirty air,” Sen. Carper said. “For many states, like Delaware, their smog problems are caused by sources beyond their borders. Setting more stringent national standards must be coupled with a national strategy to achieve them. We cannot expect individual states and localities to meet these new requirements on their own.”

Sen. Carper stressed that this is why he will continue to push the Congress to act this year on his Clean Air Planning Act of 2007 (CAPA), pending legislation to significantly reduce ozone and other harmful emissions from the largest polluters in the country – power plants.

CAPA lays out a national strategy to greatly reduce ozone pollution. Specifically, it would cut nitrogen oxide from power plants, from the current 5 million tons to 1.7 million tons in 2015. Sen. Carper’s bill also would reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants by 82 percent by 2015, recognizing that sulfur dioxide pollution causes several chronic health problems.  CAPA also calls for a 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions from power plants by 2015, and for significant reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The 11 Senate bipartisan cosponsors of the Carper bill include: Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), John Sununu (R-N.H.), Joe Biden (D-Del.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).