Alexander to Environmental Nominees: We Need New Clean Air Rules

Calls for Carbon Cap and Trade Program to Give Money Back to People Struggling to Pay Electric Bills

Posted on January 14, 2009

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today told Lisa Jackson, nominee for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, and Nancy Sutley, nominee for Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chairman, to focus their policies in the new administration on developing new, clear, appropriately-strong clean air rules, diverse carbon-free solutions to climate change, and a cap-and-trade program for carbon pollution that would give money back to those struggling to pay their electric bills. “We need new appropriately strong national sulfur, nitrogen, and mercury rules and we need them soon because they affect Tennessee and so other many states and their ability to attract jobs,” Alexander said at a nominations hearing held by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) on which he serves. “It’s impossible for communities in Tennessee to meet clean air standards so they can attract new industries if we don’t have strong national standards on sulfur, nitrogen, and mercury.” On July 11, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the EPA’s Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which set a federal requirement for power plants in 28 eastern states and the District of Columbia to reduce sulfur and nitrogen emissions by using a cap-and-trade program. On December 23, 2008, the court granted the request of EPA to reinstate the rule but directed EPA to make the rule stronger so that downwind states are not subjected to sulfur and nitrogen air pollution transported from other states. EPA was not given a deadline for completion of a new, improved rule. Alexander, who has been a strong proponent of clean air standards, held a bipartisan roundtable discussion last September to examine the need for strong national standards for sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx), mercury, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants. These air pollutants know no state boundaries and can cause serious health effects for Americans, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, cancer and even death. “I hope you will focus on diverse, carbon-free solutions to the climate change problem, rather than just focusing on wind,” Alexander said. “Estimates show that if Tennessee has all the wind power we could muster, it would only supply one percent of our electricity. Yet we are now 40 percent carbon-free because of nuclear and hydro-electric power. Please keep in mind that subsidies for wind are 27 times greater per megawatt hour than subsidies for all other forms of renewable energy. “Also, when you deal with climate change, I would focus on smokestacks and tailpipes and give all the money collected back to the people,” Alexander continued. “If there were a cap-and-trade program for power plants and a low carbon fuel standard, those two combined would apply to two-thirds of the carbon produced in this country and then take all the money that comes in through the cap-and-trade program and give it back to people who are having a hard time paying their electric bills.” Alexander has called for a clean air/climate change bill that focuses on “smokestacks and tailpipes,” or pollution from power plants and vehicles. The Smokestacks and Tailpipes Act that he plans to introduce would limit emissions on coal plants, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and set a new low carbon fuel standard, cutting carbon in transportation fuel by 5 percent by 2023 and 10 percent by 2028. Alexander has been a leader in environmental and clean energy technology issues during his time in the Senate. These efforts include: • Fuel efficiency – Cosponsored amendment that became law as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that increased the fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks for the first time in 30 years. • Low Carbon Fuel Standard – Authored committee-passed amendment to require a gradual decrease in the amount of carbon in transportation fuels to lower emissions of greenhouse gases and decrease oil consumption. • Clean air – During every two-year Congress since coming to the Senate, has authored bipartisan legislation to clean the air by limiting harmful emissions from coal power plants. • Solar energy – Presented with “Solar Champion Award” for authoring provisions that became law as part of the Energy Policy Act 2005 that provide a 30 percent investment tax credit for homeowners and businesses that installed solar energy cells. In October, Congress expanded those solar tax credits and extended them for eight years. President-elect Obama nominated Jackson to serve as EPA Administrator and Sutley to serve as chair of CEQ, which is part of the Executive Office of the President. Alexander is the ranking Republican on the EPW Subcommittee on Public Sector Solutions to Global Warming, Oversight, and Children’s Health Protection. ###