Alexander: “Now Is the Time to Clean Up Our Air”

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Bipartisan Carper-Alexander “Clean Air” Bill

Posted on March 4, 2010

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said today during a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety (EPW) that the Senate should act on the bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and himself to cut mercury emissions by 90 percent and tighten national limits on emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from coal-fired power plants. 

“There’s really no excuse remaining for not cleaning up the air, which we know how to do,” Alexander said.  “We’ve got the expertise, bipartisan support, a history of hard work—the conditions are right, so we should do it this year.” 

“For one thing,” Alexander continued, “The EPA is going to toughen ambient air quality standards soon—the conditions that metropolitan areas have to meet in terms of clean air—which will put almost every major metropolitan area out of compliance. When I was governor, Nissan came to Tennessee and the first thing they did was go down to the air quality board to get a permit to operate their paint plant.  If they couldn’t get an air quality permit because the air was too dirty around Nashville, they would have taken their plant to Georgia or some other place where they could have gotten the permit, so this is a jobs issue for us; it will enable us to provide certainty so we can continue to use low-cost reliable coal—which comes from America and for which we don’t have to depend on other countries.” 

Alexander pointed out much of the pollution in Tennessee blows in from other states and that imposing local standards in Tennessee won’t affect the pollution the wind carries over from smokestacks in other states.  Because many businesses have to get clean air permits to operate their facilities, if new regulations impose local standards that are unfeasible, businesses will just locate elsewhere, taking jobs with them. 

“In East Tennessee where I live,” Alexander said, “we have 10 million tourists who come in every year to see the blue haze of the Smoky Mountains that the Cherokees used to sing about, not the smog that comes from air pollution from coal plants. This isn’t all from TVA plants either, a lot of it blows in from other states, and I want to give Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville, Memphis and all of our cities across the country the chance to be able meet their air quality standards, but they won’t have that chance unless we have strong national standards on pollution from coal plants of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury.” 

Alexander, a long supporter of clean air standards, recently joined Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) and a bipartisan group of 9 other Senators to introduce S. 2995, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 2010, that would cut mercury emissions by 90 percent and tighten national limits on emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from coal-fired power plants.


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