Alexander Says New Clean Air Rules Will Help Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains

Posted on October 12, 2006

For Immediate Release: Contact: Harvey Valentine 202-224-8816 Thursday, October 12, 2006 ALEXANDER SAYS NEW CLEAN AIR RULES WILL HELP KNOXVILLE AND THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS Region to Receive Greatest Benefit in the Country KNOXVILLE, TN – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today said Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules to virtually eliminate sulfur in diesel fuel by October 15 should help clean the air in Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains more than in any other part of the country. Alexander, chairman of the Senate Energy Subcommittee, spoke at a press conference with Don Barger of the National Parks Conservation Association near the Watt Road Interchange on Interstate 40, which is among the busiest interchanges for big truck traffic in the country. “About 25,000 heavy trucks go through this interchange every day,” Alexander said. “This new EPA rule means that new trucks will be using diesel fuel without sulfur. Reducing sulfur helps clean the air, but more importantly it makes it possible to install air pollution equipment on these trucks that reduces nitrogen oxide and soot, which cause smog and create health problems.” The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has the highest rate of sulfur deposition of any monitored location in North America. As a result, rainfall in the park is 5-10 times more acidic than natural rainfall. The Smokies also suffer from levels of ozone pollution, caused by nitrogen oxide, that are among the highest levels in the Eastern United States. “The fine particles that obscure views in the Smokies are the same ones that can cause severe health problems. We now understand that hazy and unhealthy mean the same thing,” said Barger. “We are just beginning to see the very worse days in the park improve. Clean air is still a long climb up the mountain, but this helps put us on the trail.” “The air in East Tennessee is getting gradually cleaner, but more needs to be done about the high levels of pollution which are dangerous to Tennesseans, especially older Tennesseans, women and children,” said Alexander. “These new rules will not make a difference overnight, but given the pollution produced by the large number of trucks passing through Knoxville, they will make a significant contribution over time to cleaning our air. “I have been urging President Bush to adopt stricter standards on sulfur because it’s our biggest pollutant problem in East Tennessee and his Administration has done this in this case and deserves credit for it,” said Alexander. Alexander has introduced bipartisan legislation with Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the Clean Air Planning Act, that goes "farther and faster” than new Bush Administration proposals to clean up coal burning plants by removing sulfur, nitrogen, and mercury from the air. It also places mandatory caps on carbon emissions from these plants. Alexander said reducing these air pollutants will not only help reduce smog, but will also combat global warming. The new EPA low sulfur diesel rules, slated to take effect on October 15, say that for the first time fuel distributors, terminals, and retail outlets will carry 15 parts per million (ppm) ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel. This is a 97 percent reduction from the current level of 500 ppm in diesel fuel. # # #