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Public Statements

Flood Insurance and Modernization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. President, I also, as my colleague Senator Whitehouse did, wish to thank the chairman, Barbara Boxer, for her hard work and her leadership to protect our air and our public health on this crucial vote that is going to come up later this month.

I rise in opposition to the resolution of disapproval that we expect Senator Inhofe to offer. This resolution would permanently block the EPA from reducing mercury and toxic pollution from powerplants in the United States. The standard is called the Maximum Achievable Control Technology standard or Utility MACT.

By blocking this standard, this resolution is bad for public health. This resolution is also bad for America's natural gas producers. This resolution is especially bad for electric utilities that did the right thing and followed the law. Environmental protection should be a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats both passed the Clean Air

Act, the Clean Water Act, and other environmental laws by wide margins.

I urge both parties not to support this resolution. Here are some key points on the public health issues that are before us when this resolution comes to the floor: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates this standard will save 4,000 to 11,000 lives per year by reducing toxic pollution. The EPA also estimates this standard will prevent nearly 5,000 heart attacks and 130,000 childhood asthma attacks.

Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin. It is mostly a threat to pregnant women and young children. We took lead out of gasoline, we can also take mercury out of smokestacks. Similar to many westerners, I know the Presiding Officer and I both enjoy fly fishing. In too many areas in America, we have mercury advisories for fish from American lakes and rivers.

In New Mexico, most of our streams are under mercury advisories, which means pregnant women and children cannot eat the fish from those streams. We cannot put a price on healthy children. But if we try, this rule produces tens of billions of health benefits each year.

This resolution of disapproval could permanently block these benefits. I would also like to talk about the impact of this resolution on natural gas. Natural gas has much lower toxic emissions than coal. It has no mercury. It has no soot, known as particulate matter. Recent discoveries of U.S. natural gas have led to a 100-year supply. Natural gas prices are low. While that is actually bad for New Mexico's economy in some places, it is good for consumers.

Natural gas has increased its market share in the power sector from 20 to 29 percent recently because it is a lower cost and cleaner fuel. EPA standards do not ban coal, but they do call on coal to compete on a level playing field and reduce its pollution. If we pass this resolution, we will inject further uncertainty into the utility sector, which is balancing its portfolio to more equal shares of coal and gas as opposed to being overly reliant on coal.

I support research in defining ways to clean up coal. If we put our minds to it, we may be able to take out the toxic pollutants.

I see the Senator from Arizona is on the floor. I first wish to thank him for allowing me a couple minutes to get my statement in.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. I thank the Senator. I will take 1 more minute to finish.

Finally, I would like to note that this resolution is a bailout of companies that would rather spend money on lobbying than on pollution controls. The EPA standard does not harm responsible coal companies. It is achievable with current technology. It is my understanding that most or all of the coal plants in New Mexico already have the technology to meet these standards. The Public Service Company of New Mexico has invested in mercury controls to reduce pollution in our State. Across the Nation, many other utilities have as well.

A variety of business groups support EPA's mercury standard, including the Clean Energy Group of utilities, the American Sustainable Business Council, and the Main Street Alliance. Those standards are required by the Clean Air Act. If we block them, we will punish the law abiders and bail out the procrastinators. I urge my colleagues to oppose the resolution of disapproval.

Once again, I thank Senator McCain.

I yield the floor.

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