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Tonko Floor Remarks on SENSE Act

Mar 8, 2018
Press Release

Energy and Commerce Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY) delivered the following remarks on the House Floor during consideration of H.R. 1119, the Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment (SENSE) Act:

M. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to H.R. 1119, the Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment, or the SENSE, Act.

The SENSE Act continues the theme of the floor this week— giving unnecessary preferences to a handful of special interests at the expense of clean air and people’s health.

The SENSE Act would weaken requirements of EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS, for power plants that burn waste coal by enabling a weaker compliance option for hydrochloric acid and sulfur dioxide emissions.

To make matters worse, the bill prevents EPA from strengthening these standards for waste coal plants in the future, even if pollution control technologies become significantly better or less expensive.

I think we are all proud of the record of the Clean Air Act. As a nation, we have made significant progress since the 1970s reducing air pollution while growing the economy.

This bill is against the spirit of the Clean Air Act, and the bipartisan amendments that have followed— we should not lock-in an insufficient standard when progress is still possible.

Polluters should be pushed to do better— especially when comparable facilities are meeting these standards.

But instead, these power plant owners would prefer to get special treatment and a pathway for meeting the weaker standard for many, many years to come.

All the while, these plants will produce harmful air pollution.

This is not only dangerous, but unnecessary. The health risks of these pollutants are well-documented. And, it is in fact possible for waste coal plants to meet EPA’s MATS.

A number of waste coal units have achieved the standards, and pollution control technologies exist that would enable noncompliant facilities to meet them, too.

EPA’s MATS have already been examined by the courts, which would not grant an exclusion for waste coal utilities.

The courts did not agree with waste coal plant owners that these standards were impossible to meet.

EPA established that 8 out of 19 waste coal units nationwide could meet the rule’s acid gas standard or alternative sulfur dioxide standard already.

So, now those companies are coming to Congress.

Last year, every Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee opposed this bill. Those Members understood that this bill is not fair.

It picks winners and losers in states with waste coal plants.

It disadvantages traditional coal-fired power generators.

And it will allow for more hazardous air pollution.

That isn’t a good deal for the power generators that are already complying with the standards.

And it is a terrible deal for the people that have to live with more dangerous air pollution.

Today, I urge all Members to vote no on the SENSE Act.

And I reserve the balance of my time.