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Public Statements

Making Further Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2003

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I rise today on behalf of all those who breathe and I want to thank the sponsors of this amendment for their efforts. I say that half in jest, because I get the feeling that those who are trying to weaken our clean air laws often forget why we passed them in the first place—so we all can breathe cleaner, healthier air. I certainly support the most efficient and effective regulations we can devise to curb pollution, and I agree with the statement that the New Source Review Program could use some reform, but we must not lose sight of the fact that these rules are designed first and foremost to protect public health.

The Bush administration has shifted priorities from protecting the public to protecting polluters from doing their best. The Bush administration is protecting special interests, rather than protecting our environment and the public health. That is unacceptable and threatens to reverse the progress we have made as a nation to protect our citizens from health threats in the workplace and environment.

This is a serious issue for the people in my state of Delaware. We live in a region that is in non-attainment with the Federal ozone standard. Bottom line, we don't meet the current health-based standards. But not all of our air pollution comes from industry in Delaware. We could do everything right and still not be in compliance. What our neighbors do and what industries do in other parts of the country affects us and our ability to breathe clean air. If power plants in Pennsylvania, Maryland or even West Virginia and Ohio aren't required to do all they can to reduce harmful emissions, we pay the price in higher respiratory illnesses and premature deaths, particularly among children and the elderly. To me, that is all the more reason that we should be tightening the rules, reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants, instead of making it easier for the utility companies.

But you know what is so surprising to me, what I just can't understand—the administration has no data to even suggest that these changes will improve air quality, nor have they conducted any analysis, studies, anything. Show me that the changes will not cause a deterioration in the quality of our air. Show me that children and the elderly will not have to worry about being outside in the summer. Show me that states like Delaware will benefit. And we, my colleagues in the Senate and I, have asked . . . repeatedly!

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That is why this amendment is so important. This amendment does two things. First, it would prevent the implementation of the rule changes prior to September 15, 2003. Second, it simply asks for a rigorous analysis of the air pollution and public health impacts of the proposed rule changes. The National Academy of Sciences would be tasked with completing this study by August 15, 2003. Sure, it would have made sense to do the analysis before the changes were published in the Federal Register, but it is not too late.

I want to share briefly a success story from my state of Delaware where we helped pioneer the Plantwide Applicability Limit, or so-called PAL permit. PAL is an innovative approach where separate process permitting requirements are consolidated in exchange for greater pollution reductions. This allows flexibility for plant process expansion and modification while saving businesses time and money. And it works.

One permit Delaware helped pioneer was at DaimlerChrysler's Newark Delaware Assembly Plant, where the Dodge Durango is manufactured. The plant focuses primarily on vehicle coating—painting—and assembly of parts produced at other DaimierChrysler facilities to produce finished vehicles. Years ago, when it wanted to start producing the Durango, the plant had to build a new state-of-the-art paint shop in a new building. Permit applications for this new process triggered New Source Review requirements for non-attainment areas. Working with the EPA, one of the first ever PAL permits was issued to the plant in 1996. And, the permit, the first of its kind for the automotive industry, was issued in 99 days. The plant continues to operate under this flexible permit and, as an added benefit, has saved Chrysler $13 million in increased productivity and pollution prevention. This was a win-win situation. Chrysler won with a permit that gave them flexibility to meet production needs and Delaware citizens won through reduced air pollution. Not surprising, Delaware does not believe it could repeat the pollution prevention performance of the PAL permit it issued under the new rule and is opposing the reform proposal.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment. Give us 6 months to find out. Send the right message. Let's not forget that these rules are designed to protect public health, not to protect industry from fulfilling its civic duty. Let's not reverse the progress we have made over the past three decades.

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