Sen. Tom Carper introduced legislation Thursday to curb mercury and pollutants that cause ozone smog and acid rain, a measure he has tried to pass since 2002.
As the future of legislation targeting carbon emissions remains uncertain, the Delaware Democrat and Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee hope to amend the Clean Air Act to reduce three other pollutants from power plants.
They say a legislative fix is necessary after court challenges have slowed, and in many cases invalidated, the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to regulate such emissions since the 1990s. Citing EPA figures, they say their legislation would save lives and more than $2 trillion in health-care costs by 2025 while costing families less than $2 a month.
"A delayed approach or a piecemeal path forward are no longer acceptable options, not when so many lives are at stake," Carper said.
The bill would cut sulfur dioxide emissions 80 percent by 2018, nitrogen oxide emissions 53 percent by 2015 and mercury emissions at least 90 percent by 2015. It would build on a national trading program for sulfur dioxide and create two regional trading programs for nitrogen oxide to make emissions reductions more cost-effective.
Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee passed climate-change legislation in November without any Republican votes. Alexander said while that legislation is still being debated, "there's no excuse for waiting" to target other pollutants.
The legislation has 10 bipartisan co-sponsors, including Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del.
Coal state Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said in a joint statement that there are "significant problems" with the bill and that "much work is needed to reach common ground."
"Yet we are hopeful that an open process drawing on input from multiple perspectives can result in bipartisan agreement on legislation to reduce power plant emissions," they stated.
Carper said he would hold a hearing on the bill in his clean-air subcommittee by the end of the month.
His last attempt to target the three emissions was thwarted in November when a Republican boycott triggered a procedural rule that prevented him from offering an amendment to climate-change legislation. Republicans were protesting what they said was a lack of substantive analysis of the bill.
"I'm very disappointed with some of my Republican colleagues," Carper said. "I came here to work with people across the aisle, not this nonsense."
Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer of California pledged to support his efforts.
"I know how you feel about this: You want this done, and I want to help you with it," she said.