U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today introduced legislation to reduce air pollution and the threat of global warming by enacting strict standards on four major pollutants from power plants.
Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), who chairs a key environmental subcommittee, is the bill’s lead cosponsor.
"When the Cherokees named the Great Smoky Mountains, they weren't talking about smog and soot," Alexander said. "Unfortunately, today they probably would be. There has been recent progress, but air pollution is still a serious health problem, causing illnesses from asthma to premature death and making it harder to attract new jobs. Because the wind blows polluted air into Tennessee, our communities cannot have healthy air without strong national standards. It is also time to acknowledge that climate change is real, human activity is a big part of the problem, and it is up to us to act."
Alexander co-chairs the Tennessee Valley Authority Congressional Caucus and sits on the Senate's Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, which has jurisdiction over clean air and climate change legislation. Lieberman chairs the EPW’s Subcommittee on Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection.
"This bill would preserve our jobs while we clean the air and preserve our planet," Alexander said, "by setting aggressive, but practical and achievable, schedules for power plants to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and carbon dioxide. Doing so will alleviate some of our worst air-related health and environmental problems, such as ozone, acid rain, mercury contamination and global warming." Alexander also said he is proposing carbon caps on power plants, rather than economy-wide caps, because "we are dealing with a huge and complex economy so our steps need to be practical and cost-effective. Other strategies may make more sense for other parts of the economy."
Alexander's legislation would strengthen and put into law new Environmental Protection Agency rules on sulfur, nitrogen and mercury pollutants, and establish the first-ever caps on carbon emissions from power plants. "Power plants are the logical place to start capping carbon emissions," he said, "because they produce 40 percent of the carbon in America and are producing new emissions at a faster rate than any other large segment of the economy." The bill would create a "cap-and-trade" mechanism to reduce carbon, Alexander said, "because it is market-based, flexible and because a similar system has been effective since 1990 in reducing sulfur emitted from power plants."
Alexander said he would continue to work closely with Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), with whom he has introduced similar clean air/climate change legislation in the last two sessions of Congress, but that the two Senators would introduce separate bills. "We agree on most objectives, "Alexander said, "but have some important differences on how to pay for these bills, and felt it would move the debate along best if we each introduce our legislation and continue to work on parallel tracks toward a result."
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