Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) -- Clean Air Rule

Posted on November 8, 2011

Mr. President, later this week the Senate will vote on a resolution to disapprove the Clean Air Act rule designed to limit the blowing of power plant pollution from one State to another.  In my opinion, overturning the rule would throw the matter back to regulators, back to courts, back to lawsuits, and back into a delay. 
Senator Pryor of Arkansas and I are introducing today S. 1815.  We have sent it to the desk.  It is bipartisan legislation that will provide what we believe is a better approach, and that approach is to enact the clean air rule into law but give utilities one additional year in which to comply with it.  Our approach would provide certainty and cleaner air at the lowest possible cost to ratepayers. 

The motion to overturn the clean air rule will be offered by the junior Senator from Kentucky, Mr. Paul.  Tennesseans admire much about our Kentucky neighbors.  We admire their bluegrass, we admire their basketball, we admire their distinguished Senators.  But Tennesseans don't want Kentucky's State income tax, and we don't want Kentucky's dirty air.  We also know our neighbors in North Carolina don't want Tennessee's dirty air blowing into North Carolina because they have told us that through lawsuits in the courts, which they have won. 

Air pollution blowing from one state into another makes our citizens sick, especially our younger Tennesseans and our older Tennesseans.  Air pollution blowing from other states into our state is a job issue.  Pollution makes our Great Smoky Mountains more like the "Great Smoggy Mountains."  We like to see our mountains and we like for the 9 million visitors who come to visit us every year to stay a long time and to spend a lot of money because that supports our schools and it supports our state revenue. 

Dirty air blowing into Tennessee from other states makes it harder for us to create jobs in yet another way.  I remember 30 years ago when I was Governor of Tennessee and the Nissan corporation came to our State.  The very first thing Nissan did when it came to Tennessee was to go down to the State Air Quality Board and ask for an air quality permit in order to operate its paint plant.  Fortunately, the air quality in the Nashville area was clean enough that Nissan could locate there.  If Nissan hadn't been able to obtain an air quality permit to operate its paint plant, it would have been in Georgia or some other state.  As a result the auto jobs which have come to Tennessee in the tens of thousands over the last 30 years would most likely have went to some other state. 

So dirty air blowing from Kentucky into Tennessee or Tennessee into North Carolina or from any state into another state makes it harder for the recipient state's communities to get their quality permits. It makes it harder, for example, for us to say to Volkswagen and its suppliers:  We can provide a home to you because our air is clean enough so that you can get our air quality permit. 

Mr. President, in 2005, the Bush administration first put into place the predecessor to the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that we will be voting on later this week.
Federal courts found that the Bush rule was flawed in some technical respects and ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to write a new rule, which some now seek to overturn by means of the Congressional Review Act.  The Bush clean air rule that was put in place in 2005 has now been there for 6 years.  Many utilities have already taken steps to comply with it. 

The pollution standards in the new rule we will be voting on are about the same as those established in the 2005 Bush rule.  As an example of costs, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation's largest public utility, tells us that complying with the amended rule will cost its ratepayers between $1 and $2 a month. 

We often hear, and I will have to say that a lot of those comments often come from our side of the aisle, that it is the job of Congress, not the bureaucrats and the courts, to write the clean air rules.  The common sense legislation that Senator Pryor and I offer today is an opportunity for Congress to do its job in a way that will clean the air at the lowest possible cost to ratepayers.

Mr. President, I thank the Chair, and I yield the floor.