Statements and Speeches
Subcommittee On Clean Air And Nuclear Safety And Committee On Environment And Public Works
Mar 04 2010
Almost twenty years have passed since Congress made significant revisions to the Clean Air Act.
During that time, many polluters have kept polluting – albeit at a somewhat slower rate – but our nation’s emissions standards simply have not kept pace.
While there has been some significant environmental progress along the way, clearly we can do better.
If the legislation we are discussing today is enacted, we will do better. Much better. Millions of Americans will breathe easier as a result.
Eight years ago, when Senator Alexander and I began working together to clean up our nation’s air, we faced three monumental challenges.
The first challenge is that air pollution knows no state boundaries.
Air pollution emitted by our oldest and dirtiest fossil-fuel power plants doesn’t just affect the state in which they are located.
As we will hear today, states like Delaware have implemented tough clean air laws, only to find pollution still in the air from other states.
In fact, northeastern states like Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are located at the end of what I call, “America’s tailpipe” because we receive a heavy dose of pollution from other states.
The second major challenge is that air pollution causes serious health effects nationally, such as asthma, cancer, brain damage, even death.
According to the American Lung Association, six out of ten Americans are exposed to harmful air pollution every day.
Think about that. A majority of Americans – more than 186 million people – live in areas where there is enough air pollution to endanger their lives or threaten their health.
The third challenge is that the EPA has struggled to tighten emission standards beyond the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.
Over the past ten years, the Environmental Protection Agency has attempted to regulate harmful power plant emissions, but court challenges have delayed action.
Delays in action, means lives lost.
Senators Alexander, Klobuchar, Gillibrand and I – along with a bipartisan group of senators – believe we need legislative certainty to protect public health, because too many lives are at stake.
That is why we introduced the Clean Air Act Amendments of 2010.
Our legislation provides an aggressive – yet achievable – schedule for fossil-fuel power plants to reduce harmful emissions.
First, our bill calls for reducing utility mercury emissions by at least 90 percent by 2015.
Second, our bill calls for reducing utility sulfur dioxide emissions by at least 80 percent by 2018.
Third, our bill calls for reducing utility nitrogen oxide emissions by at least 50 percent by 2015.
These are significant reductions that the EPA agrees will save more than 215,000 lives over a 15-year period.
But if saving lives isn’t enough, our bill also saves more than $2 trillion in health care costs over the next 15 years and will cost families less than $2 a month.
For less than $2 a month, we can save three times the number of people who live in my hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
Passage of our bill also provides the certainly and predictability that industry in America needs.
Certainty allows companies to find the most cost-effective reductions.
Certainty puts Americans to work building clean energy equipment to sell here and export around the world, equipment that’s stamped “Made in the U.S.A.”
Combine business certainty with certainty we will be protecting public health, and we have ourselves a win-win situation.
The time for delay and inaction must end. We cannot wait another twenty years to change our clean air laws and save lives.
I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass the Clean Air Act Amendments of 2010 this year.