Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced his support yesterday for a bipartisan clean air bill that competes with President Bush's initiative, which the senator said doesn't go far enough in battling key air pollutants.
Alexander's decision adds another Republican dissenter to the air pollution debate, already roiled by charges that the Environmental Protection Agency withheld its own findings suggesting that the bipartisan congressional plan -- dubbed the Clean Air Planning Act -- would be more effective than Bush's "Clear Skies" plan in controlling pollutants.
"President Bush has made a good beginning by placing clean air on the agenda and offering a framework to build a strong proposal," Alexander said in a Senate speech announcing his support for the congressional plan, written by Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.). "But, with respect, he hasn't gone far enough, fast enough."
Carper's bill is similar to Bush's plan in that it would reduce power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and mercury over 15 years. But the EPA study showed that Carper's plan would impose tougher emissions limits that would be achieved sooner and result in greater health benefits. The Carper bill also regulates carbon dioxide emissions, blamed by many scientists for contributing to global climate change. Bush's plan has no carbon dioxide provision.
Alexander said he joined fellow Republican Sens. Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.) and Judd Gregg (N.H.) as a sponsor of Carper's bill because of the "condition of the air in my state." He noted that the Great Smoky Mountains had the most polluted air of any national park, and that Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis are among the nation's 20 most-polluted cities. His intentions were first reported over the weekend in Nashville's Tennessean newspaper.