Speeches - By Date
Clean Air Enforcement Press Conference Washington, D.C.11/03/1999
|Clean Air Enforcement Press Conference Washington, D.C.|
November 3, 1999
Good afternoon. I want to thank Attorney General Reno for hosting this news conference. Today EPA and the Justice Department are taking aggressive action to protect our air, our water and the health of our families from those who would disregard our nation's pollution laws -- acting as if they simply didn't apply to them.
Today we file the first complaints in one of the largest investigations in the history of EPA -- launched two years ago and still ongoing. The actions we are announcing target 32 coal- fired power plants in 10 states from Florida to Ohio.
Today's actions will help us stop millions of tons of pollutants that cause choking smog and corrosive acid rain throughout the Midwest and up and down the East Coast. Millions of people will breathe easier and thousands of acres of forests, farmland and countless lakes will have greater protection.
These are not close calls. Next year these utilities will dump into the air 2.2 million tons sulfur dioxide, which cause acid rain, and 660,000 tons of smog-producing nitrogen oxides.
When Congress passed the Clean Air Act in the 1970s, it reasonably thought these old coal-fired plants would be replaced by newer, cleaner technologies. So it exempted these plants from meeting the tougher standards applied to new facilities as long as these "grandfathered" power plants maintained the status quo.
The companies were allowed to perform routine maintenance, but they were not allowed to make significant changes to the plant -- such as increased generating capacity, increased burning of coal, or modifications that prolonged the life of the plant -- without seeking permits and adding the best available pollution control devices.
We charge that the companies named in these actions spent hundreds of millions of dollars modifying these plants increasing their life and increasing their pollution. And they did this without applying for permits, without public notice and without installing pollution control technology.
For instance, one plant spent $60 million on five new furnaces. Another spent $10 million on 10 new burners.
Controlling the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from these plants could lead to an 85 to 95 percent reduction respectively in these pollutants. Taken together, these reductions would be the equivalent of taking 26 million cars off the road and reduce acid rain by an estimated 15 percent.
Beyond that, these pollution controls would also reduce mercury and soot emissions leading to clearer skies and healthier air.
Remember, by ensuring that these plants obey the law, we are not just helping their immediate communities achieve cleaner air. We are helping almost the entire eastern half of the United States, because air pollution does not stop at state borders.
These pollutants move far beyond their source. Drifting on the wind, the smog and acid rain generated by a Midwest coal plant can trigger breathing problems, deforestation, dying lakes and fish kills through the Mid-Atlantic states, and up and down the East Coast all the way through to New England.
Children are particularly vulnerable to this type of pollution. Between 1980 and 1993, asthma-related deaths among children rose 118 percent. And we know these pollutants can act as a trigger.
We want the new century to be breathtaking for all -- and a struggle to breathe for none.
By taking action today to protect our air and our water from pollution, the Clinton/Gore Administration is making it clear that we will not allow any industry to defy the law and degrade public health.