Statements and Speeches
Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety
Apr 17 2012
WASHINGTON - Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, convened the hearing, "Review of Mercury Pollution's Impacts to Public Health and the Environment." For more information or to view a webcast of the hearing, click here.
A copy of his statement as prepared for delivery is below:
"I've always believed that it's possible to have a clean environment and a strong economy.
"When I ran for governor in Delaware in 1992, believe it or not, the question I received most often was, 'Do you think we can have a strong economy and a clean environment?'
"And I said, 'I think it's a false choice to say that we have to have one or the other; we can have both.' For the next eight years, we did have both. We made great gains in Delaware in both improving our economy and strengthening our natural environment.
"As some industries are being asked to make new clean air investments to significantly protect public health –many are again posing a false choice between boosting our economy and improving public health.
"And I say again – we can have both.
"Today, we are focusing on why we need to take further steps to clean up our air.
"We will hear how our health and the health of our children are being threatened by a silent killer released into the air every day –mercury.
"We will hear how reducing mercury emissions in this country can impact our health here at home; reducing healthcare costs, helping us get better healthcare results for less money.
"We've known for a long time that mercury is a neurotoxin that can damage our health – especially our children's health and development.
"In 1990, Congress had enough scientific information to list mercury as a hazardous air pollutant in the Clean Air Act.
"Lawmakers at the time – me included – thought this action would ensure our largest emitters of mercury would soon be required to clean up.
"Unfortunately, it has taken 22 years for the EPA to start regulating our largest sources of mercury in this country.
"Since 1990, our knowledge of where mercury comes from and its health and environmental impacts has only grown.
"We know that mercury emitted into the air is deposited into our water. In the water, it gets into our food stream through our fish and fowl.
"We know that pregnant mothers eating contaminated fish are most at risk because they can transfer unhealthy doses to their unborn child – impacting neurological development of the baby.
"We know that hundreds of thousands of babies are at risk every year for mercury poisoning.
"We know we have mercury fish advisories in every state in this country.
"We also know that power generation remains the largest man-made source of mercury emissions in this country.
"We will hear today, that actions made here at home do make a difference. We will hear that we are only beginning to see the true costs of not cleaning up our mercury pollution.
"Mercury pollution is a local, regional and global problem that must be addressed at the federal level.
"Again, we've known for a long time that mercury pollution is a problem that needs to be addressed.
"Since coming to the Senate, I have worked with my friend Senator Lamar Alexander and many of my colleagues to reduce mercury pollution from our power plants through legislation.
"We weren't the only ones trying to reduce mercury pollution through federal standards. Senator Inhofe, former Senator Voinovich, and President George W. Bush's EPA all supported federal regulations for power plant mercury emissions.
"In fact, one of our witnesses here today, Jeff Holmstead, testified before this Committee in 2001 as President Bush's EPA Administrator for Air on this very issue.
"During that hearing, Mr. Holmstead testified in favor of reducing mercury pollution from our power plants – stating then that mercury emissions are "known to have a wide range of adverse effects on human health." He likened the health impacts of mercury to another deadly neurotoxin - lead.
"Fast forward to today, and finally the EPA has acted to reduce mercury pollution from utilities.
"Unfortunately, some of my colleagues are still debating the science of mercury pollution and whether we need federal standards to clean up this deadly air toxic.
"I hope today's hearing will put to rest this debate.
"Mercury pollution is a real threat and must be reduced in this country to safeguard our health, protect our natural environment, and preserve clean air for generations to come."