President's Clear Skies Initiative Won't Clean Pollution Without Changes

January 28, 2003

(28 January 2003 — Washington) Responding to reports that President Bush will call for support of the “Clear Skies Initiative” (CSI) in his State of the Union Address, Environmental Defense today called on Congress to substantially strengthen environmental and public health protections needed to deal with pollution from power plants. 

“The President is giving Congress an opportunity to deal with a key environmental and public health challenge - but only if the legislation it enacts is significantly stronger than the President’s proposal.  The Environmental Protection Agency’s own air quality modeling and economic analyses show that deeper pollution reductions than called for under CSI are cost-effective and absolutely necessary to protect public health and the environment,” said Joseph Goffman, Environmental Defense senior attorney.  “CSI calls for reductions in sulfur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and mercury, but none in carbon dioxide pollution.” 

Reflecting the critical impact power plant pollution has on air quality, the CSI (proposed in 2001) cuts pollution from power plants, but not at levels sufficient to protect public health and without cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, the major source of heat trapping greenhouse gases.  Early indications are that the President will be offering up CSI without any of the needed improvements.

“While CSI uses economic incentives to lower the cost of compliance, it falls woefully short of meeting the public health and environmental goals of the Clean Air Act, and fails utterly to deal with the threat of climate change,” Goffman said.

“If Congress wants to respond seriously to the President’s challenge - and to the demands of environmental and public health protection - it should look to the kind of legislation introduced last year by Senators Jeffords and Lieberman and by Senators Chafee, Carper, Baucus and Breaux.  Those bipartisan bills required reductions in carbon dioxide and targeted cuts in sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and mercury at levels needed to protect public health and the environment,” said Goffman.