11.10.11

Leahy Hails Senate’s Vote To Reject A Bid To Kill The EPA Cross-Border Dirty Air Limits That Will Help Curb Pollution-Drift Into Vermont And Other Downwind States

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, Nov. 10) – The U.S. Senate Thursday voted to reject a resolution of disapproval offered by Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would have derailed EPA’s new cross-border pollution rule, which would greatly benefit Vermont and other “downwind” states.

The resolution was voted down in a procedural vote of 56-41.  Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who supports the EPA rule and who voted against the move to kill the new standards, cited the rule’s many benefits to Vermonters and to all Americans.  “The Cross-State Rule will protect the American people from dangerous air pollution pumped into our air by the largest polluters,” he said.  “These are sensible, workable limits that would tangibly improve Vermonters’ lives.  Undoing this rule now will nullify, or potentially even reverse, these important pollution reductions.  It will also harm the many businesses that have made investments in clean air technologies, while perversely rewarding those plants that refused to make the sensible, long-term investments required by a rule that is nearly a decade in the making.”

Leahy’s full statement on the resolution of disapproval is below.

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy
In Opposition To
The Senate Resolution Of Disapproval
Of The EPA Cross-Border Air Pollution Rule

 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

There was a time when strong bipartisan majorities in Congress sided with the interests and views of the American people about curbing pollution to safeguard the public’s right to a clean and healthy environment.  Citizens placed their trust in the government to act on their behalf, to set science-based health standards to protect the air we breathe. On both sides of the aisle, there was an understanding that a healthy environment was critical to our families, our livelihoods, our economy, and our nation.  To improve the Nation’s air quality, Congress almost unanimously passed the Clean Air Act in 1970, under President Richard Nixon.  Congress then passed the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, again with overwhelming majorities in both Chambers, under President George H.W. Bush. 

As part of the 1990 Amendments, Congress specifically required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address emissions that interfere with another state’s ability to protect public health through air quality requirements.  Yet today we still lack the appropriate pollution limits necessary to protect each and every American from drifting smog and soot pollutants, and to protect States from bearing the health and economic costs of distant polluters who are far beyond their purview.  With the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, the EPA is doing exactly what we in Congress asked them to do.  This is also exactly what the courts told them to do, and exactly what they should do to protect the American public from the hundreds of thousands of tons of pollutants emitted each year from coal-fired power plants. 

These pollutants all too often reach unsafe levels, resulting in air quality alerts and dangerous health consequences – all the more so for young children, the elderly, and those who already have respiratory problems.  My own wife, Marcelle, is a nurse, and she knows from experience how harmful air pollution can be in causing asthma, bronchitis, heart attacks, and even death. 

This Cross-State Rule will protect the American people from dangerous air pollution pumped into our air by the largest polluters.  These are sensible, workable limits that would tangibly improve Americans’ lives.  These are improvements that would foster a better economy by annually preventing up to 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 heart attacks, 19,000 emergency room visits, 400,000 aggravated asthma cases and 1.8 million sick days. 

By 2014, in Vermont alone, the health benefits will add up to $360 million each year from these improvements.  These changes are literally a matter of life and death for many Americans.  For example, studies show that in our state, curbing smog and soot pollution will allow 44 Vermonters to celebrate another birthday and live to see the next generation of children and grandchildren thrive.  In states like Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, the Cross-State Rule will save as many as 1,400 to 3,200 lives each year.  That is a lot of parents, children, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

However, Senate Joint Resolution 27 would void the life-saving, health-promoting Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and prohibit any future attempt by the EPA to limit unsafe levels of air pollutants that drift across state boundaries – making it one of the all-time most harmful and egregious attacks on the Clean Air Act and on the health of the people we represent.  If passed, this resolution would force the EPA to ignore dangerous, drifting emissions forever, compelling Americans to accept shorter lives, to accept the risk of heart attacks and strokes, to suffer with asthma and other serious illnesses, and to accept the degraded quality of the Nation’s parks, waterways, and forests. Those are not things that I am willing to accept and no member of the Senate should support.

Powerful special interests and their allies who want to overturn the Cross-State Rule are asking Americans to suffer to save the economy, but their economic arguments fall flat in the face of the evidence.  The truth is, nothing will sink the economy more than degrading our environment and poisoning our workforce.  Pollution regulations help to lower health care costs, maintain worker productivity, and support local economies through recreational industries.  The Cross-State Rule will have national benefits of up to $280 billion annually.  This dwarfs the annual compliance costs of about $800 million in 2014, which helps explain why most Americans believe that health-based pollution standards are essential in safeguarding our families and our economy. 

For decades, evidence has shown that pollution limits fuel spending and create jobs in producing, installing and monitoring control technology and emissions.  In fact, utilities have already spent $1.6 billion installing pollution controls to meet current air quality requirements and anticipated requirements under the Cross-State Rule.  Furthermore, power plants have already achieved more than two-thirds of the pollution reductions necessary to comply with the Cross-State standards that go into full effect in 2014.  Studies already show that the EPA’s proposed Air Toxics Rule and Cross-State Rule combined will create almost 1.5 million jobs over the next 5 years.

Undoing this rule now will nullify, or potentially even reverse, these important pollution reductions.  It will also harm the many businesses that have made investments in clean air technologies, while perversely rewarding those plants that refused to make the sensible, long-term investments required by a rule that is nearly a decade in the making.

Vermont has no coal-fired power plants, but we do have people suffering with asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and we do have an economy that depends on the health of our environment.  In Vermont, we have made, and continue to make, decisions to invest in clean fuels and technologies.  We do this because we value good health and family, friends, and the outdoors.  We do this to preserve the quality of life a healthy environment provides us.  We do this so that future generations have access to clean air and all the benefits that come with healthy, vibrant communities.  But without the Cross-State Rule, we are powerless to fully protect our Green Mountain State. 

Reckless decisions regarding public health policy, especially in such a broad manner as this resolution, should not be fast-tracked through the Congressional Review Act process.  This resolution goes much too far, putting people permanently at risk by rolling back decades of progress to make the air we breathe safer for each and every American, especially for our children and seniors.  The Clean Air Act has a proven record of improving public health, the environment, and our economy.  The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is in keeping with that impressive record:  These standards are conservatively estimated to produce net benefits exceeding $100 billion a year.  With today’s spiraling health care costs, this is a cost-effective way to help control harmful pollution, save lives and foster a healthy environment and economy for future generations.  I oppose Senate Joint Resolution 27 and encourage my colleagues to do the same.

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