January 13, 2005

TO:
  Members of the U.S. Senate
FROM:
  Kay J. Maxwell, President
RE:
  The President’s “Clear Skies” Initiative

The Administration’s “Clear Skies” legislative initiative would substantially weaken public health and environmental protections under the Clean Air Act. The League of Women Voters urges you to oppose it. Instead, the Clean Air Act should be fully implemented and strengthened to reduce pollution, improve the health of all Americans and stop global warming.

For over three decades, the Clean Air Act has worked. Air pollution has been cut at the same time that the nation’s economy has grown dramatically. The “Clear Skies” pollution plan, on the other hand, will move the country backward in its efforts to improve air quality, in the following ways:

The plan delays deadlines to meet the health standards in the Clean Air Act while relaxing pollution reduction requirements for power plants and other major pollution sources. Pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury would increase to dangerous levels under the plan, resulting in more harmful air for those most at risk – the elderly, children, pregnant women, and people with asthma.

The important New Source Review program would be gutted, allowing oil refineries, chemical plants, power plants, factories and other industries to escape upgrading to modern pollution controls. Also under the plan, critical state authority to protect air quality would be repealed, as would protections for our national parks.

Finally, global warming will worsen. Power plants are the greatest source of carbon dioxide emissions, responsible for 40 percent of CO2 emissions in the United States. The “Clear Skies” plan allows CO2 pollution to continue to increase and relies on ineffective voluntary approaches to reduce carbon pollution.

We must enforce the Clean Air Act, which protects public health and provides critical tools that the states and the Environmental Protection Agency can use to achieve clean air. Please do not weaken industry’s responsibility to clean up power plants and other smokestacks. Do not postpone the requirements to meet health-based standards. Do not diminish the rights of downwind states to protect their citizens from pollution produced outside their borders.

All Americans have a right to breathe clean, healthful air. That is the promise of the landmark Clean Air Act. The League of Women Voters urges you not to break that promise.