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Public Statements

Disapproval of EPA Emission Standards Rule--Motion to Proceed--

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. BOXER. Madam President, I yield myself 1 minute, and I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the following--an editorial written by the very type of companies my friend Senator Barrasso mentioned who have said they are just fine with the EPA's new air quality regulations. Do you know why? Half of the coal-fired utilities have already made these adjustments. They are clean. And if it is up to Senator Barrasso, the other dirty plants will keep on spewing forth the most toxic and dangerous pollutants.

The other is a new poll taken in March of this year which shows that 78 percent of likely voters have asked us to get out of the way and let the EPA do its job in controlling industrial and power-sector mercury and toxic air pollution.


Mrs. BOXER. Madam President, I think when the Senator talks about balance, he ought to recognize that one-half of the coal-fired utilities have already made these adjustments, they have reported to us, with very little impact to electricity rates.


Mrs. BOXER. Madam President, we are faced with a resolution today to essentially repeal something that has been 20 years in the making and is about to go into effect. It would stop the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, from implementing the first-ever national mercury and air toxics standards for powerplants.

A little bit later I will talk about what mercury does to people. Let me assure you, it is not good. I will also talk about the other toxics that are emitted from these dirty plants.

They are not good either. When I mention them, just the names will scare us because they are names such as arsenic and formaldehyde--not good. They are going into our lungs. The mercury is getting into fish. People are getting sick. That is why this is such a dangerous moment if we were to pass this and stop the EPA from doing this.

We know that for every $3 we invest--every $1 to $3--we are going to get back $9 in health benefits. If we do the math and we follow the math, it is clear this is cost-effective and critically important.

Ask a parent who has a child who is rushed to the emergency room with asthma whether they want this done. Ask a coal-fired utility that has made these improvements already--half of them have--and they will tell us there has been hardly any impact on electricity prices, and they are happy with them.

If this resolution were to pass and the policy behind it were to pass, it means that instead of rewarding those coal-fired utilities that are doing the right thing, we are rewarding those that haven't done the right thing and continue to spew forth these toxins.

What is at stake? I ask rhetorically of people who may be listening to this: Whom do we trust more, Senators and politicians or physicians and nurses? I think we should trust these numbers from the professionals who have looked at this issue. If this resolution were to pass and EPA is blocked from implementing this new clean air standard, we will see up to 11,000 additional premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 cases of childhood asthma, 6,300 cases of acute bronchitis among children, 5,700 emergency room visits, and 540,000 days of missed work. Again, the rule provides $3 to $9 in benefits for every $1 that is invested.

We are going to hear other arguments from the opponents of the Environmental Protection Agency, but the people of America are smart. They were asked just 2 months ago if they want us to interfere with the Environmental Protection Agency as they clean up the air, clean up the mercury, clean up the toxic soot, and 78 percent said: Stay out of it, politicians, and let the Environmental Protection Agency do its job.

We should thank the coal companies that have already cleaned up their act and not reward those that have delayed cleaning up their act.

Again, we will hear all kinds of horror stories. Ask the utilities that have made these improvements. We have a list of them somewhere.

We will also hear there will be lost jobs from this rule. We know there will be 46,000 short-term construction jobs as these plants become clean and 8,000 long-term jobs.

Now look at the utilities that oppose the Inhofe CRA. They include Austin Energy, Avista Corporation, Calpine Corporation, Constellation Energy, Exelon, National Grid, NextEra Energy, NYPA, Public Service Enterprise Group, and Seattle City Light. Some of these have coal-fired powerplants. They say: What are we doing? Let's keep moving toward clean energy.

I asked if we trust politicians or do we trust those who, I believe, are unquestionably character witnesses in this debate. Let's look at some of them that oppose what Senator Inhofe is trying to do today. The Catholic Health Association of the United States, Evangelical Environmental Network, Franciscan Action Network, General Baptist Convention, General Conference of American Rabbis, National Council of Churches, United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, United Methodist Church, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They oppose what my friends on the other side are leading us to today, a repeal of clean air rules.

Whom do we trust, the politicians or some of these groups that strongly oppose this resolution--the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Respiratory Care, the American Heart Association, the Lung Association, the Nurses Association, the Public Health Association, the March of Dimes, the Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Trust for America's Health.


Mrs. BOXER. I ask unanimous consent for 2 additional minutes, and then I will yield and retain the balance.

Here is the chart I wished to show on utility prices. We have heard doom and gloom. Here are the facts. There was hardly any fluctuation in utility rates when half the coal-fired plants made these improvements.

Do not fall for scare tactics because we know upgrading a utility is something that has to be done. It is built into the long-term plans of these utilities.

What poisonous emissions does this clean air rule address? I talked about it before. In the balance of my time I will go through it again, but I am going to just name these toxins: mercury and lead, arsenic, selenium, cadmium, chromium, benzene, formaldehyde, acid gases, and toxic soot. All we need do is listen to what I said and we know we don't want to breathe them in and we don't want to have fish that contain too much mercury because it damages the nervous system in children and harms the brains of infants. We know how dangerous it is for pregnant women and children to eat this type of fish.

Last night, we had Senator Whitehouse here from Rhode Island, and he was eloquent on the point. He had a picture, which was actually a Norman Rockwell painting--it wasn't a real painting, it was a wonderful poster. He said: Here is a perfect American scene of a grandpa taking a grandson fishing. He said that today, in his State, they can't eat the fish. Maybe they can once a month eat one fish, and in some of their lakes, they can't even eat any.

This is wrong. This is pollution blowing from other places into the Northeast. Let's defeat this resolution. It is bad for the people of this country.

I yield the floor and retain the balance of my time.


Mrs. BOXER. Madam President, the Senator from Oklahoma said I asked: Whom do we trust more, politicians or bureaucrats? No; that is not what I said. I said: Whom do we trust more, politicians or groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Respiratory Care, the American Heart Association, the Lung Association, the nurses, the March of Dimes, et cetera. I believe that when it comes to the trust of the public, these groups have one concern and that concern is the health of our people. That is why we have to defeat this resolution and allow the Environmental Protection Agency, after 20 years, to finally promulgate a rule that will go after the worst toxins that are coming out of coal-fired plants.

I will go through a few of these. Mercury is a heavy metal that can damage the nervous system in children and harm the brain of infants, causing slower mental development and lower intelligence. Why do we want to take a stand against the children and their brain development? Mercury can accumulate in the food chain. We know this. What happens is people--especially pregnant women and children--can't eat fish because of the high content of mercury.

Then there is lead. These are the things we are talking about getting out of the air. Lead can damage the nervous system of children and harm the brains of infants, causing slower mental development and lower intelligence.

There is no known safe level of lead in the blood of children. This is indisputable fact. It can harm the kidneys and cause high blood pressure, damage reproduction, cause muscle and joint pain, nerve disorders. Why would anyone--why would anyone stand on this floor and say it is OK to allow these toxins to be polluting our environment? Arsenic is a heavy metal that causes cancer, damages the nervous system, kidneys, and liver. Powerplants account for 62 percent of all the arsenic pollution we are fighting against. Why would anyone who cares about the people they represent vote for this resolution and stop the EPA from cleaning up our air?

Vote no. There is no reason to risk the health of the American people by voting for the utility CRA resolution. If the resolution passes and if that resolution were to become the policy of this country, thousands--hundreds of thousands of Americans every year would be harmed. This is not rhetoric, this is fact. Scientists have told us this. The health groups have told us this.

I urge a strong ``no'' vote.

I yield the floor.


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