Sen. Tom Carper gave the opening statement at the March 5 U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety hearing “States’ Role in Protecting Air Quality: Principles of Cooperative Federalism.”
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for convening this hearing and continuing the conversation we began during our hearing on this very topic in April 2018, less than a year ago. The subject is particularly timely now, given recent actions by the Trump administration,” said Carper.
“The Clean Air Act requires EPA to partner with states to address air pollution, especially air pollution that crosses state borders. The act ensures all states are good neighbors when it comes to clean air. These protections are critical for my home state of Delaware because our state is located at the end of what I call ‘America's tailpipe.’ This means that other states' dirty emissions from cars and power plants drift east into our state and other downwind states. This cross-state air pollution makes it impossible for Delaware to meet national health air pollution standards without the cooperation of upwind states and the EPA,” said Carper.
“However, instead of working with states on solutions to our clean air problems, Administrator Wheeler’s EPA has actually made it more difficult for states, especially downwind states, to meet clean air goals. For example, Wheeler’s EPA has rejected 126 Clean Air Act petitions filed by three states — Delaware, Maryland and Connecticut — that ask EPA to require upwind power plants to install or consistently operate already installed pollution controls,” said Carper.
“Furthermore, Administrator Wheeler’s EPA is cutting state air program funding, weakening enforcement and rolling back critical clean air protections that will exacerbate the ongoing air pollution confronting our states. Here are just three examples of such rollbacks,” said Carper.
“First, Administrator Wheeler told members of this committee in January that, quote, ‘no one wants a 50-state deal more than I do,’ when asked about negotiating a ‘win-win’ compromise on vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards with California. But, two weeks ago, EPA walked away from even the pretense of negotiations, despite being asked by every single automaker, utilities, auto parts suppliers and others to strike a deal,” said Carper.
“Second, last September, Administrator Wheeler signed a proposal at the behest of the oil and gas industry to repeal basic rules requiring them to control leaking methane gas. Administrator Wheeler’s own proposal states the rollback would increase leaking methane by 380,000 short tons, increase leaking volatile organic compounds by 100,000 tons, and also result in 3,800 tons of leaking hazardous air pollution. The proposal says EPA ‘expects [the proposal] may degrade air quality and adversely affect health and welfare,’ but EPA has declined to quantify the negative health effects or determine how many people will be affected. EPA has also declined to determine how this proposal will affect states’ ability to meet air quality standards. So EPA is admitting its methane rollbacks will increase air pollution but leaves states in the dark on how this additional pollution will harm their constituents and whether it will push them into nonattainment or not,” said Carper.
“Third, in the 11th hour before the government shutdown in December 2018, Administrator Wheeler signed a proposal that guts the legal foundation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards — also known as the MATS rule. Using outdated data, EPA decided that some benefits, like reductions in cancer, birth defects and asthma attacks, are no longer important for the agency to count, and proposed action that puts the MATS rule in legal jeopardy. Undermining the MATS rule could result in installed mercury and air toxic control technology to be turned off, putting downwind states at particular risk. Every stakeholder — from the coal-fired utilities who comply with the rules, to religious leaders, to health experts, to environmental organizations, to the chamber of commerce — have urged this administration not to take this step. Administrator Wheeler has so far ignored these pleas to keep the MATS rule in place and effective,” said Carper.
“These are just three examples of EPA’s rollbacks of clean air regulations that will likely result in increased air pollution across this country. There are many more that I’ve not mentioned today. It’s clear that these rollbacks harm our air quality and public health, yet EPA refuses to model any of those negative effects,” said Carper.
“So we have a situation in which Administrator Wheeler’s EPA is denying downwind states’ efforts to hold upwind states accountable for their own air pollution and expanding air pollution that crosses state borders while taking away critical financial tools and programs that helps states address pollution,” said Carper.
“Cooperative federalism means cooperation between the federal government and the states to solve problems. As we will hear today, many states are not receiving much cooperation from this administration. Instead, states are finding themselves without a federal partner in addressing these serious problems,” said Carper.
“We may have changed administrators but, clearly, we have not eliminated the problems with this administration,” said Carper.
“I look forward to today’s hearing,” said Carper.