Posted on December 4, 2003
The federal Environmental Protection Agency made two major announcements today that will affect the lives of most Tennesseans for the next several years. First, the EPA has made a preliminary judgment that 27 counties, including the five largest metropolitan areas where most Tennesseans live, are in violation of the federal clean air laws for ozone, or smog. These counties may have a grace period of up to three years to come into compliance. We should take these designations seriously. Ozone, which is the smog Los Angeles is famous for, is damaging to our health. Failure to meet the standards will also make it harder to recruit new industrial jobs to the affected counties because they won't be able to obtain the required air permits. Second, the EPA has announced that it will implement by rule instead of by legislation President Bush's Clear Skies proposal to control pollutants emitting from power plants. The good news is that the proposed rule requires polluters to reach higher standards faster than the proposed legislation. That is good news. The bad news is that this new Clear Skies rule still does not go far enough, fast enough to control the particulate matter, or soot, produced by coal fired power plants. In 2006, Tennessee counties will be required also to be in compliance with federal standards for soot. At least half this soot is produced outside Tennessee. That is why I have co-sponsored the Carper Bill, which goes farther, faster than the President's clean air proposals. It sets tougher standards on polluters both inside and outside Tennessee. I do not see how Tennessee counties will be able to come into compliance with the federal clean air laws unless there are tough federal standards on polluters outside Tennessee as well as inside. Finally, I have discussed with EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt my deep concern about the visibility and health problems created by the polluted air in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Smokies have become the most polluted Park in America. Average daily visibility in the Smokies is only 25 miles; the natural level of visibility is 113 miles. One of Mike Leavitt's most impressive accomplishments as Governor of Utah was spearheading an effort to reduce visibility and health problems in the air in the Grand Canyon. I am encouraged that he has pledged to work with me and others try to do the same for the Great Smoky Mountains.