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Environment Ranking Member Tonko’s Floor Statement on Ozone Standards Implementation Act

Jul 18, 2017
Press Release

Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Environment Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY) delivered the following remarks on the House Floor today during consideration of  the Ozone Standards Implementation Act (H.R. 806):

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the bill and yield myself such time as I may consume.

I want to express my strong opposition to H.R. 806, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act, which would undermine the Clean Air Act and the decades of progress we have made to improve our nation’s public health and air quality.

This bill delays implementation of the 2015 ozone standards until 2025, extends the review cycle for all National Ambient Air Quality Standards from 5 to 10 years, and authorizes the EPA Administrator to consider technological feasibility when establishing or revising a NAAQS.

Today, we will hear that removing health and environmental protections creates jobs. Despite all the evidence that protecting public health and growing the economy are not mutually exclusive.

Since its enactment, the Clean Air Act has reduced key air pollutants by roughly 70 percent, while the U.S. economy has more than tripled.

We will hear today that our country has made enough progress, and we will hear claims that further progress will be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

But this bill’s supporters may not tell us that the American Lung Associations’ 2017 State of the Air report found that nearly 4 in 10 people in the United States live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution.

Delaying EPA’s more protective health standards will only serve to delay these Americans’ access to guaranteed clean air.

I believe American ingenuity continues to be up to the task of developing and deploying technologies that will protect our citizens. History has shown again and again that meeting such basic health-protective standards is achievable. More importantly, advancing these protections will make America more productive, more competitive, will improve quality of life and drive down public health costs tied to asthma, heart disease and even cancer.

We may hear today that standards change too frequently, and EPA should have more time to review and implement each standard.

We will likely not hear that EPA has discretion on these matters and is only tasked with changing those standards if it will protect health.

Every year, more studies are completed. With each new study, we gain an even better understanding of how ozone and other pollutants are harming Americans’ health. It is critical that these standards reflect the latest available science.

What we are not likely to hear today is questioning of the large and growing body of scientific and medical evidence that breathing air that contains ozone and other criteria pollutants can cause serious health effects.

Unfortunately, this bill would cast aside that scientific evidence in favor of adding cost and technological feasibility considerations into the standard-setting process.

The proposed changes to the Clean Air Act will slow down, if not outright rollback, the progress we have made to clean our air. This would be a mistake.

Healthier people means fewer sick days, fewer hospital visits, and fewer premature deaths— all of which leads us to a more productive society.

According to a peer-reviewed 2011 EPA study, in 2010 alone, the Clean Air Act prevented over 160,000 premature deaths, 130,000 cases of heart disease, 1.7 million asthma attacks, and millions more respiratory illnesses. Many of those health benefits have helped our most vulnerable populations, particularly our children.

That is why so many public health and medical organizations and professionals have vocally opposed this bill every step of the way.

The Clean Air Act keeps kids in school, adults at work and on the job, and tens of thousands of Americans out of the Emergency Room every year.

At a time when Republicans in Congress have been almost singularly focused on ramming through legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and rip healthcare away from tens of millions of Americans, this bill adds insult to injury.

Plain and simple, the bill before us today would undermine the Clean Air Act as a safeguard of our public health law, and I encourage all Members to oppose it.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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