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Clean Air Minnesota Conference, St. Paul, Minnesota

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
Clean Air Minnesota Conference
St. Paul, Minnesota

June 3, 2003

Thank you Kim (Carlson) for that introduction.

It = s a pleasure to be here today in St. Paul to recognize an exciting new initiative Minnesota is embarking upon to reduce air pollution. Normally, when a city or state develops such a comprehensive air management plan, they do so in order to fix an air pollution problem or meet federal air standards.

Here in Minnesota things are a little different. As Governor Pawlenty mentioned, the entire state already meets fine particle and ozone standards. However with smog levels rising and an increase in air alerts, the decline in air quality has become a growing concern. Instead of waiting for air violations to occur before taking action, you are working to prevent them from happening in the first place.

As we all know the best defense is a good offense, and with the Clean Air Minnesota program you have an exceptional tool to improve air quality here in St. Paul and across the rest of the state.

Like our own efforts on the national level, Clean Air Minnesota is taking a broad-based approach to limiting harmful emissions B developing strategies to address stationary and mobile sources, as well as working to educate citizens about changes they can make in their everyday activities to improve the air.

Clean Air Minnesota as a voluntary partnership program is a direct reflection of President Bush= s and my belief in building strong partnerships among government, industry, and communities to help meet the goals we all share for cleaner air, purer water, and better protected land.

We have seen, in just the past two-and-a-half years, the success such partnerships can produce across a variety of issues such as water quality improvement, land redevelopment, and our own Agency led initiatives to improve air quality. By bringing together a diverse group of partners, your work here in Minnesota stands as another example of what can be accomplished when we put aside our differences and join together in the pursuit of our shared goals.

Your work here complements our own efforts as an Administration to leave our air cleaner than we found it. Over the past two and a half years, we have made important progress that will go a long way in improving the air we all breathe.

The cornerstone of our clean air efforts is the President = s landmark Clear Skies legislation, which will achieve mandatory reductions of 70 percent of three of the most dangerous pollutants emitted by power plants B nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury. Clear Skies, much like Clean Air Minnesota, takes a pro-active approach that would get air reductions up front, instead of waiting for pollution to increase before we act.

With Clear Skies we recognize that to achieve the next generation of environmental progress, we must improve the laws that have served us so well.

It = s important to note that the most successful program in over a decade to address air quality has been the Acid Rain program, which set mandatory reduction goals then allowed businesses flexibility in achieving them.

Clear Skies takes a similar approach. Rather than setting individual targets on particular smokestacks, it sets mandatory reductions on the industry as a whole B and gives facilities flexibility in determining how to meet those reductions, while keeping in place current Clean Air standards.

Recognizing that EPA has never produced a kilowatt of power, but does understand what= s safe to breath, this flexibility enables facilities to pursue the most cost effective approach to cleaner air and helps ensure our ability as a nation to respond quickly and efficiently to changes in the energy marketplace.

Using this market-based approach, we will remove 35 million more tons of NOx, SO2 , and mercury from the air over the first ten years of the Clear Skies Act than the current Clean Air Act would achieve in that same time frame.

Right here in Minnesota, we estimate that the combined economic value of the health and environmental benefits of Clear Skies will be $1 billion a year by 2020. Every year there will be 100 fewer premature deaths, 5,000 fewer instances of asthma attacks, and 21,000 fewer lost work days due to respiratory related symptoms in this state.

I should also mention that we are calling this plan A Clear Skies @ for a reason B because it truly will make America = s spacious skies noticeably clearer. We project improvements in visibility in Minnesota of 1 to 2 deciviews B the visual equivalent of a decibel. When one deciview yields a perceptible improvement in visibility, achieving a 1 to 2 deciview improvement means you won= t be able to miss the improvement Clear Skies will deliver.

Signing Clear Skies into law is one of the President = s top domestic goals for the year, and complements EPA = s other clean air initiatives, such as our work to reduce pollution from mobile sources.

In April, EPA announced an important new rule to dramatically reduce harmful emissions from diesel engines used in construction, farming, industrial, and airport service equipment.

These so-called non-road diesel engines are a major source of emissions that, up until this point, have been virtually unregulated. Non-road diesel engines as a whole account for 44% of particulate matter and 12% of nitrogen oxide emissions that enter our air from vehicles.

Both of these pollutants have harmful effects on our air quality. From inducing smog that shrouds our cities and open spaces to making it difficult for Americans with respiratory problems to breath B especially children with asthma B these emissions not only affect the purity of our air but also the quality of our lives.

Under our new rule, these emissions would be reduced by 90%. The Natural Resources Defense Council was right when it said, A our bold proposal will be the biggest public health step since lead was removed from gasoline more than two decades ago. @

It = s important to point out that this new non-road diesel announcement is part of a series of rules that have put stringent new emissions requirements on all mobile sources. We= ve set new tail pipe standards and we = re utilizing low sulphur gasoline in addressing emissions from cars and SUV = s. We = re working to reduce diesel pollution from large trucks and buses, and we = re advancing efforts to curb the pollution associated with recreational vehicles.

As you can see, we have addressed the full fleet of on-road and off-road vehicles.

By addressing our mobile sources in this comprehensive manner, we will reap tremendous environmental results. When fully implemented, these programs will reduce air pollution by nearly 7 million tons and save over 23,000 lives a year.

In addition, it = s important to remember that those who often suffer the most from poor air quality are our children. That is why we recently launched the Clean School Bus USA initiative to improve the pollution performance of our public school buses. Our goal is to ensure that by the year 2010, every public school child in America that rides a school bus will be riding a clean school bus.

We are funding this program with a $5 million appropriation that we are making available to local school districts to help defray the costs of upgrading their bus fleets. Not too far from here in the South Washington County School District, progress is already underway to make school buses cleaner. As a result of $62,200 in funding from 3M more than 40 buses will soon be retrofitted with emission reduction technology.

From Clean Buses to Clear Skies, the environmental policies we are pursuing to protect our air reflect a deep understanding that our environmental quality is closely linked to our quality of life.

If we are to succeed and A protect our environment in ways that generations before us could not have imagined@ as the President called for in his State of the Union, then Congress, this Administration, states, and citizens must all rise to meet that challenge.

With the Clean Air Minnesota program, Minnesota is not only rising to that challenge, you are setting a goal towards which other cities and states should strive.

This Administration believes that the path to environmental progress is one that is marked by cooperation and partnership. In order to accomplish lasting and beneficial change in the quality of our environment, we must continue to break down the traditional barriers that have existed in the past and work together towards our shared goals.

Only by working together can we ensure that the environment we leave our children and grandchildren is a healthy and strong inheritance.

Thank you.