World Fuels Conference
Carol Browner, EPA Administrator
September 25, 1998
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you Fred. I am delighted to be here this morning.
More than a quarter century ago, we passed the Clean Air Act. By any measure, this law has been an astounding success. Since its passage, emissions of the six major pollutants or their precursors have actually dropped by 29 percent -- and our gross domestic product has nearly doubled.
Today, two-thirds of Americans live in areas that meet EPA's standards for healthy air.
The economy grows and the air gets cleaner. Now that's progress we can all be proud of.
Much of the credit goes to private enterprise. Businesses across a wide range of industries have dedicated their best minds to the task of meeting, and even exceeding, the standards. We have worked together to develop common-sense and cost-effective strategies to reduce air pollution and protecting public health. I thank those of you who have been a part of this effort.
It can be done. We've done it before. And this track record proves we can do it again.
That is what I'd like to talk to you about today -- what we can do together to live up to the promise of the Clean Air Act in ways that will grow our economy and our competitiveness.
Millions of Americans still live in areas that do meet EPA's standards for healthful air.
Ozone "red alert" days are common summer occurrences here in the capital -- and in many of the nation's large cities. The elderly and those with heart and respiratory ailments are all advised to stay indoors on these days to protect their health.
Parents of the some 5 million children who suffer from asthma in this country must tell their sons and daughters they can't play outdoors on red alert days. Even healthy people -- adults and children -- are advised to restrict their exercise.
No one wants this. In poll after poll, the American people have said the nation must do what it takes to reduce pollution and provide clean air. And it is our responsibility under the Clean Air Act to find ways to reach the goal of cleaner, safer, healthier air for the nation.
The question we, at EPA, have had to ask ourselves is: How? Today's air quality problems are just more complex than in the past. I'm talking about smog that causes problems downwind. I'm talking about global warming. I'm talking about the growing number of cars on the road. When businesses and government work together, we are in the best position to meet these challenges and the goals of the Clean Air Act.
Five and half years ago, when President Clinton, Vice President Gore, and I came to office, we began building a new generation of environmental and health protection -- to build on past successes and meet the difficult challenges ahead.
We set strong public health standards -- such as the President's new public health air standards for soot and smog. And we are tapping into America's vast reserves of innovation and ingenuity to meet those standards -- even exceed those standards -- in ways that grow our economy.
Absolutely key to this effort's success is forging strong partnerships -- businesses, communities, environmentalists, public health groups, government at all levels -- pooling time, talent, and resources to find protective, common-sense, cost-effective solutions.
Already we have had great success building partnerships that are getting the job done.
As just one example, we have a partnership with the auto industry for cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars -- a great stride forward in addressing the challenge of global warming.
EPA, has long been an active and enthusiastic participant in the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles -- PNGV -- a partnership between the federal government and the U.S. auto industry to develop cleaner vehicles that get triple the gas mileage of today's conventional cars.
Global warming, of course, is not the only pollution problem we face. In our largest cities, motor vehicles contribute up to half of the emissions that cause smog -- one of our most serious urban air pollution problems.
Recently, Vice President Gore announced an agreement with states and the auto industry that will make cleaner cars a reality for the nation -- much cleaner cars, 70 percent cleaner. This is a big step toward meeting our new clean air targets. Nearly every automaker -- foreign and domestic -- has agreed to produce low-emission vehicles. And by the year 2000, we'll be seeing cleaner cars in almost every showroom in the country. A wonderful example of how -- through partnerships -- we can protect people and our prosperity.
Just yesterday, I announced a historic step EPA has taken with a group of eastern, midwestern, and southern states to significantly reduce the regional transport of smog in the Eastern United States -- the smog that is causing problems in downwind areas.
Based on three years of work with these states, we have come up with a protective, flexible, cost-effective, market-based, regional plan. Through this action, 22 eastern states and the District of Columbia will reduce, by 28 percent, emissions of nitrogen oxides -- the main contributors to smog and unhealthy air in our nation's cities.
By 2003, we anticipate that this action will cut 1.1 million tons of nitrogen oxide emissions each year in these states -- and all with maximum flexibility to the states as we work together toward these goals.
The states will decide how to achieve these targets, but our plan does demonstrate that the most cost-effective way to reduce these emissions is to focus on the largest, least controlled sources -- primarily major power plants.
To meet the goals set by Congress in the Clean Air Act, we must all do our part -- large industry, utilities, auto manufacturers, the fuel industry, and government. And we've made great progress together -- progress we can all be proud of.
But we haven't gone far enough.
Americans are driving more cars and trucks more miles every year. Light duty trucks comprise almost half of the passenger vehicles sales today. These vehicles are allowed to pollute as much as 3 to 5 times more than cars.
What's more, by 2007, passenger vehicles will still contribute as much as 20 to 30 percent of total nitrogen oxides emissions, and as much as 20 percent of total volatile organic compounds. Our low-emission car program and our new plan with the states to reduce the regional transport of smog gets us only part way down the road toward clean, healthy air.
Clearly, we have more work to do.
We need to set aggressive but realistic goals for the cars and fuels of the coming century. It will be a balance between the auto and oil industries. Each will have to do its share.
As you know, the Clean Air Act envisions that by early next year we must propose two new clean air standards. The first will be to set more stringent emission standards for light-duty cars and trucks through our Tier 2 rulemaking. The second will be to establish standards to reduce sulfur levels in gasoline. These proposed standards will be released this coming January.
This is a fabulous opportunity for a coordinated clean air effort. But it will not be a simple task.
Let me say that I am personally committed to working with you to find the most common-sense, cost-effective solution that cleans our air and helps us develop new, innovative environmental technologies. Time and time again, both the auto and fuel industries have risen to the challenge of clean air. This time will be no different -- if we work together, each do our part, and take responsibility for finding a solution.
I have met with representatives of the auto and oil industries. I will continue to do so and coordinate this effort at the highest levels. I am personally committed to moving this process forward. I consider these new standards one of the most important actions I will take in my tenure at EPA.
Let me emphasize that these proposed standards will reflect our work together, but they are just proposed. We expect to receive extensive public comment on the many complex issues they will raise. We will be meeting with all interested parties -- industry, state and local officials, communities, public health organizations, environmentalists, and other concerned groups. A final plan will be released by the end of 1999.
I see that later today a panel at this conference will be asked the question: "Clean air and air quality standards: Can we live up to the future in an era of cooperation?" Let me save you some time and answer with a simple: We must. We have no choice. Cooperation is the only way we can fulfill the promise of the Clean Air Act in ways that will grow our economy, grow our competitiveness, and keep our nation strong.
So let us redouble our efforts, and work together for clean, safe, healthy air.
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