Disapproving a Rule Submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency Relating to the Mitigation by States of Cross-Border Air Pollution Under the Clean Air Act

Floor Speech

By:  John Kerry
Date: Nov. 10, 2011
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I strongly oppose Senator Paul's resolution of disapproval of the Environmental Protection Agency's, EPA, cross-State air pollution rule because I believe that it is an extreme measure that is anti-clean air and water, anti-jobs and business, anti-public health, and could potentially prevent EPA from protecting the public from cross-state pollution indefinitely.

EPA finalized the cross-State air pollution rule on July 2011, establishing a cost effective program to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from coal-fired powerplants that negatively affect citizens in downwind States. The rule updates a 1997 Clean Air Act standard and replaces a 2008 standard that was struck down by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Because this rule replaces the vacated rule from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, if this resolution succeeds, by law EPA will not be able to issue a ``substantially similar'' rule, which means that supporting this resolution could prohibit EPA indefinitely from promulgating any rule to control cross state air pollution. This would be an enormous step backwards.

Contrary to what those who support this Resolution would like you to believe, the cross-State air pollution rule is a very reasonable regulation. By 2014, EPA estimates this Rule will yield up to $280 billion in annual health and environmental benefits, far outweighing the $800 million in annual projected costs. EPA worked closely with industry and specifically designed this rule to give powerplants maximum flexibility and keep compliance costs low. Not implementing this rule would mean that local businesses in many Eastern States would have to turn to more expensive, less cost efficient controls to meet air pollution standards.

Also contrary to what those who support this resolution are saying, the cross-State rule would mean more certainty, not less, for business. Powerplants have known this rule was coming for years, and getting rid of it would create serious uncertainly by throwing the issue back to the courts and reopening it to lawsuits. This could mean years of continued uncertainty for companies who won't know what standards they will be held to. The cross-State rule gives power plants the certainty they need.

The cross-State air pollution rule also creates jobs. The University of Massachusetts's Political Economy Research Institute estimates that this rule and EPA's other recent clean air rule--the Air Toxics MACT--together will create nearly 300,000 jobs a year on average over the next 5 years. In fact, thanks to environmental regulations under the Clean Air Act, since 1970, we have created millions of jobs in pollution control and environmental technologies industries, and the United States exports tens of billions of dollars of pollution control technologies annually. Using a term often thrown around these days, Senator Paul's resolution would be ``job killing.''

Most importantly, nullifying this rule will have significant and immediate negative public health effects, especially for our children, seniors, and other vulnerable populations. In Massachusetts alone, the cross-State rule it is expected to avoid up to 390 deaths each year and result in up to $3.2 billion of annual health and environmental benefits. Nationally, by 2014, each year it will prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 19,000 hospital and emergency room visits, 1.8 million days of missed work or school, 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and the list goes on.

These are not just statistics; these are real children who have to sit on the sidelines during a soccer game or are up wheezing late at night and making emergency trips to the hospital; laborers who can't finish a shift because of respiratory problems; senior citizens whose quality of life is dramatically diminished because they must be attached to a respirator 24 hours a day; and so many more. I recently heard the story of 6-year-old Mia Murphy in Massachusetts whose mother, Rachael Murphy, lives in fear of her daughter's next asthma attack. Only 6 years old, Mia can have coughing fits that last for hours. It is terrifying for both Mia and her mother when Mia can't breathe. Mia needs to take daily medication to control her asthma, but when she has a flare up, only a 5-day course of high dosage steroids can relieve her symptoms. While these steroid courses help, they also cause Mia to have nightmares and emotional outbursts. For Mia, a normal cold can cause a flareup for weeks. As Mia's mother says, ``Children rely on us to keep them safe.'' All children have a right to clean air. With other citizens in Massachusetts, Rachael has bravely spoken out to support efforts like the cross-State rule to improve the air quality in Massachusetts to help keep her children healthy. Without this rule, Massachusetts and other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States will not be able to control air pollution in the region at a level that protects the public health of our citizens.

Forty years of the Clean Air Act have proven that environmental protection and economic growth go hand in hand. The American people support the Clean Air Act because they know it has improved our Nation's air quality and protected public health. S.J. Res. 27 would undermine this progress at the expense of America's most vulnerable populations. We cannot in good conscious let it pass.


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