Senate bipartisan bill for cleaner air might become law

Posted on April 23, 2007

Senate bipartisan bill for cleaner air might become law Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced a bill co-sponsored by Senator Joe Lieberman (Ind.-Conn) Thursday that is a bipartisan approach to aid clean air. Alexander sits on the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, and Liberman chairs a key environmental subcommittee. So the bill has not only bipartisan support but backing by sponsors in key places in the Senate. And it is significant that Alexander, from the TVA area and co-chair of the TVA Congressional Caucus, is heading this bill which sets aggressive but practical and achievable limits for reducing four pollutants in order to save jobs while we clean the air and preserve our planet. Alexander explains the bill focuses on the electricity sector because these plants are the logical place to start. They produce 40 percent of the Co2 (carbon dioxide) in our country, a rate almost twice as fast as any other large segment of the economy. The act provides a schedule for power plants to reduce emissions and alleviate some of the worst air-related health and environmental problems, such as ozone, acid rain, mercury contamination and global warming. Specifically, the act would: - Cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 82 percent by 2015. This acid rain-causing pollution would be cut from today's 11 million tons to a cap of 2 million tons in 2015. - Cut emissions of nitrogen oxides by 68 percent by 2015. Ozone pollution would be cut from today's 5 million tons to a cap of 1.6 million tons in 2015. - Cut mercury emissions at each power plant by 90 percent by 2015. This is a stringent, yet achievable goal that would really reduce the risks this neurotoxin poses to children and pregnant women. - Implement a cap, trade, and offsets program to reduce Co2 emissions which would be capped at 2.3 billion metric tons in 2011, then 2.1 billion metric tons in 2015, some 1.8 billion metric tons in 2020 and 1.5 billion metric tons in 2025 and beyond. The bill offers some innovative features to encourage prompt, deep, and yet cost-effective actions. It discourages the switching from coal to natural gas to generate electricity as a means of compliance. It permits flexible compliance so companies may use offsets to meet their carbon emissions reduction flexibly and cost-effectively. On its own and with some encouragement, TVA had done much to move toward lowering its air pollution as have other electrical generating facilities. Much more should be done by all who generate electricity. If this bill is passed, we expect we will have a lot cleaner air over the Smokies and we will also breathe easier and healthier. It is appears likely that it is being launched at the proper time from the right platform.