Sen. Lamar Alexander has been a consistent defender of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and his leadership on a proposed Clean Air Planning Act further demonstrates that commitment.
Congress should recognize the need for pollution limits Alexander calls for, and it should get tougher in demanding clean air.
Alexander is sponsoring legislation with Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., as well as Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. The bill would cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 82%; cut nitrogen oxides by nearly 68%; and reduce mercury emissions by 90%, all by 2015. Further, the measure would address carbon dioxide emissions, noting that carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants account for 10% of the global emissions of C02. President Bush once advocated cuts of carbon dioxide then backed off that pledge.
Alexander is willing to give the Bush administration credit for some progress, but says rules on reducing air pollution from power plants don't go far enough. His proposal is not just about protecting nature. Alexander points to the threat to humans from ozone, fine particles and mercury.
Alexander, saying clean-air legislation is stuck, notes that the Smoky Mountains are the most polluted national park in America, adding that visibility on the haziest days in the park is 15 miles, when it should be 77 miles naturally. He is willing to show flexibility on carbon dioxide through offsetting purchases between TVA and an industrial plant or from farmers who plant new trees, which would capture carbon dioxide.
Greenhouse gases, especially from coal-fired power plants, have been an enemy to some of Tennessee's most astounding natural resources. Congress needs to get tough on emissions. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has not shown the leadership it should have on such a crucial issue. At the moment, Alexander's plan may not even get the debate and the vote it deserves. Congress should make the issue a higher priority.
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