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Public Statements

Clean Air Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, what I came to the floor to talk about--and I would like to do that now--deals with clean air, it deals with jobs, it deals with the responsibilities the EPA has with respect to clean air and to make sure that as they execute their responsibility, they are mindful of jobs.

A lot of people think we cannot have cleaner air without destroying jobs. As it turns out, we can have both. We can have cleaner air. We have had it for years. We adopted the Clean Air Act in 1970, with major amendments to it in 1990. We literally created millions of jobs from that act to reduce the emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, and other forms of pollution that, in many cases, have killed people--hundreds of thousands of people--over the years. We not only save lives, we improve health in the country. We put a lot of people to work coming up with new technologies that reduce harmful emissions. We have a lot of people working in this country to reduce emissions from our cars, trucks and vans and doing it in a way that gives us better gas mileage.

When I filled up my car with gas over the weekend, it was about three and a half bucks per gallon. As the Presiding Officer knows, we are going to start building by the end of next year in our old GM plant new cars, Fisker, cars that drive about 80 miles per gallon. They are beautiful. Chevrolet is selling the Volt and will sell more in the years to come. They are making huge improvements in mileage. We are getting this greater improvement in mileage and reducing our dependence on foreign oil, cleaning up the air, and putting a lot of people to work. This is one of the deals where we can have our cake and eat it too.

I just came from a Bible study group. There were very nice comments, Mr. President, about you yesterday at the Prayer Breakfast. Before that I did a telephone townhall. Initially, I learned this from Bob Corker, a Republican Senator from Tennessee, who shared this idea with me a couple years ago. You get a big conference call with people in your State. We had 5,600 people on the call. We spent about an hour together. They raised all kinds of issues.

One of the ladies on the call asked me: Why are we letting EPA tell companies what they can do with respect to their emissions? We are going to destroy jobs. As it turns out, the premise is not correct. It is not that the EPA wants to do this; it is their job. The EPA is being told by the U.S. Supreme Court that under the Clean Air Act, if the EPA can show through good science that there is harm to our health or to the welfare of the people by virtue of our pollution, EPA has no other choice but to regulate it if we will not pass laws to do that.

We have not passed laws. Some people say: Why don't we put a tax on carbon, on things we burn and that have carbon in them to make it more expensive and maybe people will use less of it. We are not going to put a tax on carbon around here. I don't know that too many people have the political courage to do that.

We argued about what President George Herbert Walker Bush did to reduce acid rain, reducing dramatically through market systems sulfur dioxide. We met our reduction targets in one-half the time at one-fifth the cost. People do not talk about acid rain anymore. There is an effort to take that approach and apply it to carbon dioxide. There are not the votes here to do that either.

EPA has basically little choice when the Supreme Court interprets the Clean Air Act. They have to do something. We have not done our part, so the job of EPA is to pass commonsense regulations which will be mindful of their impact on jobs. As it turns out, we are going to create a lot more jobs by virtue of cleaning up our air than we are going to lose in terms of employment opportunities.

The last point I wish to say, if I may, is the Presiding Officer and I live in Delaware, the first State to ratify the Constitution. We are enormously proud of our State, as our colleagues are of their States. In Delaware, we do not have mountains. One does not find the Blue Ridge Mountains or the Rockies there. We are a pretty flat, low-lying State, just north of Maryland, just south of Pennsylvania, and just west of New Jersey.

I joke with people. I say the highest point of land in Delaware is a bridge, and that is not much of an exaggeration. We are a low-lying State. Something is happening in our lovely little State. We do not have a lot of land. We are starting to see the sea level rise. It is not just on the Delaware beaches and shores, it is happening up and down the East Coast, in the gulf, and over on the West Coast as well.

We have great beaches--Rehobeth, Bethany, Dewey, and others. We used to replenish our beaches maybe every 5 or 6 years. The waves come in, storms--nor'easters, maybe an occasional hurricane. We have to replenish our beaches. We have to do it more frequently now, not because of storms but because the sea level is actually starting to rise.

As the Presiding Officer knows, just north of Rehobeth Beach--a great little beach town--just north of Rehobeth Beach, about 10 miles, is a beautiful natural wildlife refuge called Prime Hook. It is right on the Delaware Bay. Prime Hook has a number of beautiful freshwater wetlands and marshes. It is a great place for people to hike, watch birds, and do all sorts of activities. It is a real national treasure. We are starting to see saltwater intruding and taking over what had previously been freshwater marshes and wetlands.

If we look at the Delaware River from the Delaware Bay, north up the Delaware Bay, it becomes the Delaware River and we head up to Pennsylvania and into New York. As we go farther and farther up the Delaware River, in recent years, we find that instead of turning from saltwater to brackish to freshwater, that line moves farther north.

Something is going on. Maybe people do not want to recognize or acknowledge that, but something is going on. We are seeing strange kinds of tornadoes, frequency of tornadoes, thunderstorms in the middle of winter. Out of the 10 hottest years on record, 9 of them have occurred in the last decade. Something is going on here. EPA is trying to figure out if there is some way we can gradually reduce the emission of greenhouse gases into our air and do so consistent with a strong economy and creating jobs, not destroying. I think we can do both. We have to be smart to figure that out and have a partnership with the executive branch, businesses and the legislative branch and be consistent with what the Supreme Court has ordered EPA to do.

One last, quick point. We spend more money for health care than Japan, by far. We spend more money on health care than any other nation on Earth, by far. In Japan, they spend half as much as we do for health care and get better results, everything from higher life expectancy to lower infant mortality. They cover everybody. Think about that: They spend half as much, better results, and they cover everybody. How can they be that smart and how can we be that dumb?

One way we can spend less money on health care is to, frankly, have cleaner air. We cannot only save billions of dollars--we have already made great progress--but we can save tens maybe hundreds of billions of dollars in health care costs by continuing to clean our air, to make it cleaner.

With that, I am happy to conclude. It is a joy to be here and see you, Mr. President, presiding in this Chamber and with all these young people to recount one of my favorite stories about Barack Obama and the six points I gave to him 2 1/2 years ago to reduce the deficit. We are actually starting to do that, knowing we need to do a whole lot more.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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