Statements and Speeches
WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, spoke before the annual meeting of the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) at the Wardman Park Marriot Hotel in Washington, D.C. He discussed his rationale for making air pollution a legislative priority as well as his work in Congress on air pollution legislation. A copy of Sen. Carper's remarks, as prepared for delivery, follows:
"Summer is here, and that means kids outside swimming, playing baseball and eating barbecue on the patio. But as most of you know, summer also means smog and exposure to deadly air pollution – especially in the Northeast, in states such as Delaware. The summer smog season serves as a powerful reminder that despite the remarkable progress we have made, we still have a long way to clean up our air in this country.
"I often say that a major role of government is to create a nurturing environment where businesses can grow and create new jobs while also playing by the rules and being good corporate citizens. For the last forty years, I believe the EPA has been trying to fill that role; trying to foster economic growth while ensuring Americans are protected from deadly air pollution that threatens their lives. With our recent economic downturn, it seems EPA's difficult balancing act between the economy and the environment just got tougher. Today, we seem to be asking more and more these days: can we protect our environment AND grow our economy? And I am here to say, yes we can.
"Some of you here may disagree with me and wonder how I can be so certain that we can clean up our air and grow our economy. Well, fortunately history is on my side. I am reminded by something President Harry Truman once said, 'The only thing new in this world is the history that you don't know.'
"In 1970, President Nixon signed into law the Clean Air Act that established our clean air regulatory framework to curb deadly air pollution. During the debate before President Nixon signed that historic legislation, we heard similar complaints as we do today. As we hear today, naysayers forty years ago said the Clean Air Act was too costly. They said cleaner air would kill our economy.
"Well the naysayers couldn't be further from the truth. This Clean Air Act was so successful that over 200,000 lives were saved from 1970 through 1990. That is over twice as many people than live in my hometown, Wilmington, Delaware. All the while our economy grew.
"Building on President's Nixon's success, President George Herbert Walker Bush signed into law the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 – giving us the clean air laws we have today. Naysayers twenty years ago repeated the claims that the updates to the Clean Air Act were too costly. They again said cleaner air would kill our economy. Again the naysayers were wrong.
"Over the 1990 to 2020 time period, the EPA estimates that our country will see over $12 trillion in health and economic benefits – in the form of longer lives, healthier kids and greater workforce productivity – from the Clean Air Act. That is trillion with a "T." For 2010 alone, clean air regulations are estimated to have saved over 160,000 lives. The Clean Air Act benefits outweigh the costs – 30 to 1. All the while our economy grew. Since 1990, electricity rates have stayed constant and national gross domestic product has grown by 60 percent, but we have saved lives and made our children's lives better.
"We've made great strides in reducing our nation's air pollution, but more can be done. More must be done if we want to protect our children and compete in the emerging global clean energy economy. And since coming to the U.S. Senate, I have made it one of my objectives to ensure EPA has the right tools to further clean our air. As many of you know, I have worked across the aisle on clean air legislation to reduce deadly emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and other air toxics.
"Often times, I'm asked why I am so passionate about clean air. Why would a self proclaimed 'flaming moderate' be so active on clean air regulations? Well here are a few reasons. First, I believe in the golden rule. I believe we should do unto others as you would have them do unto you. As members of the Ozone Transport Commission, you know more than anybody that air pollution knows no state boundary. And as Governor of Delaware in the 1990's, I quickly realized that one state could do everything in its power to reduce its air pollution, but could still find itself with dirty air because of bad neighbors.
"Despite Delaware's efforts to reduce our pollution, we remain in nonattainment for ozone and fine particle pollution because of our upwind neighbors neglecting to do the same. In fact, Secretary O'Mara has told me that up to 90 percent of Delaware's pollution comes from out of state. As Governor, I could have shut down every source of pollution in the state and Delaware would still have been in nonattainment.
"I quickly found that my neighbor's dirty air meant higher health care costs for my state. My neighbor's dirty air meant difficulty attracting businesses to my state. And my neighbor's dirty air meant we were paying the full price of their cheap, dirty air. That is when I realized we had to have a national solution to address our air quality problems. States cannot do it alone. We have to work together and work with the EPA to clean our air.
"Second, I believe in getting better health care results for less money. As I said earlier, the Clean Air Act is expected to save this country trillions of dollars every year in health care costs. Every time a child suffers from a severe asthma attack during a high ozone day, that costs the family and the health care system thousands of dollars in hospital bills. Parents have to take off work to be with their sick child – lowering productivity. And at time when we are facing a childhood obesity epidemic – we are asking out children to stay inside more and more because of the fears of ozone.
"Unfortunately, we haven't even begun to understand the real health care costs of some of our deadliest air toxics. Luckily, the solutions far outweigh the costs. Let's use reducing mercury emissions as one example. Mercury pollution is a nationwide, serious health threat. When released into the air, it can settle into oceans and waterways, where can accumulate in fish and animal tissue. If pregnant women eat mercury contaminated fish in sufficient quantities over time, mercury can build up in their bodies and harm brain development of their unborn children. Up to ten percent of our pregnant mothers are exposing their babies to harmful levels of mercury. From the IQ loss alone, a child with neurological damage from mercury exposure could lose up to $31,000 in lifetime earnings.
"But despite what some of our friends say, reducing this pollution is not so expensive or difficult. Recently, GAO looked at states that already have acted on reducing mercury – many of which are in this room – and found that reducing mercury pollution by 90 percent cost as low as ten cents a month. I don't know about you, but ten cents a month – or $90 over a lifetime – to dramatically cut emissions of a pollutant known to damage children's brains and reduce IQ seems to me worth it. Sounds like less money for greater health care results.
"And third, I am concerned about jobs and I believe jobs can be created by cleaning our air. I often quote Albert Einstein – "in adversity lies opportunity." And I believe we have a great opportunity to spur our economy with a clean air future. Construction unemployment is high, material costs are low and power demand is low. I can't think of a better time to investment in our aging power fleet infrastructure.
"A recent Ceres report, calculated that upcoming clean air regulations will not only saves lives, but will create much needed jobs every year – 300,000 jobs every year. Over five years, it is estimated that clean air regulations will create as many as one and a half million good paying jobs. These are American jobs in manufacturing, installing and operating modern pollution control technology and producing clean energy. These are jobs that come at a crucial time as our nation's economy continues to recover and grow. This report affirms what I have been saying for years – working to achieve healthy air will result in saving lives and a healthy economy.
"Some of my colleagues in the House and the Senate want to put a halt to future clean air regulations. Some want you to think we cannot afford these regulations. My response to my colleagues – we cannot afford delays to clean air regulations. That's why I've worked so hard with my colleagues – Democrat and Republicans alike – to make sure that all our children have clean air to breathe, air that's free of all types of air pollution.
"I tried to work on legislation to put these reductions in law. We tried to give certainty to industry and to states about the timetables and reductions that need to occur in the next decades. Unfortunately, we are not successful. So we are left with the EPA. Rest assured, I'm going to do everything in my power to work with the administration and my colleagues to protect the Clean Air Act and ensure our children have a clean air future."