WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) today called for swift action to reduce pollution from power plants. At a hearing of the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Clinton urged support for aggressive legislation to reduce pollution that is causing serious health and environmental damage in New York and across the country. The hearing examined the aftermath of a July 11th decision of the D.C. Circuit Court vacating the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Air Interstate Rule, also known as “CAIR.”
“Air pollution from power plants upwind of New York threatens the health of millions of New Yorkers, and damages our mountains, lakes, streams and wildlife. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration’s failure to follow the Clean Air Act or negotiate a bipartisan bill leaves us no closer to reducing pollution than when the President took office. This eight-year delay has had real and serious consequences for New Yorkers,” Senator Clinton said. “It is time for Congress to act by passing strong, comprehensive legislation to steeply reduce emissions of harmful pollutants from power plants. I believe the best way to achieve that goal is to pass The Clean Power Act.”
Senator Clinton is a cosponsor of the Clean Power Act of 2007, originally introduced by Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT). The legislation would require steep reductions of four major pollutants emitted by power plants – carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and mercury – and set the power sector on a course to meet national targets for reducing global warming pollution from all sectors. Specifically, the bill would achieve the following emission reductions:
- Carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced to 2.3 billion metric tons by 2011 (2006 levels), 2.1 billion metric tons by 2015, 1.8 billion metric tons by 2020 (1990 levels) and 1.5 billion metric tons by 2025 (17% below 1990 levels).
- Nitrogen oxide emissions would be reduced to 1.5 million tons by 2010 and 900,000 tons by 2013.
- Sulfur dioxide emissions would be reduced to 2.25 million tons by 2010 and 1.3 million tons by 2013.
- Mercury emissions would be capped at 5 tons, with facility-specific reductions of at least 90% capture, and no trading would be allowed.
At today’s hearing, Senator Clinton underscored the health and environmental benefits of reducing power plant pollution. The EPA analysis showed that the CAIR rule would prevent 17,000 premature deaths annually by 2015, potentially saving the lives of 1,500 New Yorkers. EPA estimates that by 2015, CAIR would have the following annual benefits in New York alone: 2,400 avoided heart attacks; 1,800 avoided cases of acute bronchitis; 150,000 avoided work-loss days; 27,000 avoided cases of exacerbated asthma; and many other benefits. A more aggressive program, such as the Clean Power Act, would produce larger health benefits.
In addition, Senator Clinton noted that reducing power plant pollution would also improve the health of mountains, lakes, farms and wildlife in New York and many other states. She cited the findings of a new report detailing the continuing toll of acid rain and other air pollution on eastern ecosystems that was issued by The Nature Conservancy and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, which is located in Millbrook, NY. That report, entitled Threats From Above: Air Pollution Impacts on Ecosystems and Biological Diversity in the Eastern United States, assessed the impacts of four major pollutants on six ecosystem types in areas that receive some of the nation’s highest levels of air pollution. Among its key findings:
• Ground-level ozone reduces plants' ability to harness sunlight for growth harming both natural ecosystems and agricultural crops.
- High levels of deposited mercury have negative impacts on wildlife – from salamanders in the Appalachian Mountains to loons in the Adirondacks and bald eagles in Maine.
- Acid rain is making sensitive lakes and streams uninhabitable by fish in the mountains of the Northeast and the Southern Appalachians.
- Excess nitrogen – in part from air pollution – is harming waterways from Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay to Long Island Sound to Chesapeake Bay.
Jared Snyder, Assistant Commissioner for Air Resources, Climate Change and Energy at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, provided testimony at the hearing on behalf of New York state.