The Senate Must Reject Lugar Bill Undermines Clean Air Act and other public health protections

Statement of Charles D. Connor, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Lung Association

WASHINGTON, DC (June 9, 2010)

The American Lung Association urges the U.S. Senate to reject Senator Richard Lugar's efforts to block the cleanup of old, dirty coal-fired power plants.  We are outraged to see this attack on the Clean Air Act included in the Lugar draft energy and climate change bill.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving ahead to curb the pollution that leads to deadly smog and soot that hangs over communities across the country and to dramatically cut mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxics that spew from these plants.  Americans should not have to wait another day –let alone nearly another decade –for cleaning up lethal air pollution from coal-fired power plant. The Senate must not halt the installation of lifesaving modern pollution control equipment. 

The electric utility industry has spent decades fighting the installation of modern pollution controls.  Now, the industry is facing an EPA –with the strong backing of the American Lung Association -- that is following the clear Clean Air Act requirements to cleanup emissions from major sources like these power plants because of the enormous harm those emissions do to public health.  Instead of investing in pollution control equipment and cleaner energy, power plants are deploying battalions of lobbyists to seek this special protection and unconscionable exemption from the law. 

These big utility companies have used every dirty trick in the past 40 years to avoid having to clean up their plants, causing delay after delay. The Lugar bill waives air pollution cleanup requirements for the oldest and dirtiest power plants nearly another decade and perhaps indefinitely if needed to avoid "energy disruptions," without any requirement to eliminate or mitigate health hazards.  For good measure, the bill also waives compliance with clean water protections. 

The American Lung Association strongly opposes this legislation and any other changes to the Clean Air Act that undermine the protection of public health.  We urge the Senate to reject this bill and any other legislation that weakens health protection.

Coal-fired power plants create particle pollution and key components of ozone.  Both pollutants kill.  Pollution from these power plants has been estimated to cause nearly 24,000 early deaths each year through their toxic impact on the lungs and the body.  Power plant pollution causes wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks; both send children to the emergency room and people with lung disease, heart disease and diabetes to the hospital. Particle pollution causes heart attacks and strokes and may lead to lung cancer. These are lethal substances, recognized as such by repeated scientific review. 

Particle pollution and ozone aren't the only pollutants targeted under the bill as proposed—just the most widespread. The draft bill blocks safeguards applying to mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxics known under the Clean Air Act as hazardous air pollutants.

We urge and demand that the Senate  reject this legislation that weakens the Clean Air Act.