Boxer says Clean Power Plan is needed and can be done

February 11, 2015

Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer

EPW Oversight Hearing: Examining EPA’s Proposed Carbon Dioxide Emissions Rules from New, Modified, and Existing Power Plants

(Remarks as prepared for delivery)

Washington, D.C. — Today’s oversight hearing will examine the critically important steps that the Obama Administration is taking to address climate change by reducing dangerous carbon pollution from the biggest source — power plants.

Power plants account for nearly 40% of all carbon pollution released into the air, but there are currently no limits on this pollution. And, we are already seeing the consequences – just look at recent headlines from across the country:

• “It’s Official: 2014 Was the Hottest Year in Recorded History” – Washington Post (1/16/15)

• “2014 Was Earth’s Warmest Year on Record: NASA, NOAA” – Chicago Sun Times (1/16/15)

• “How Hot Was It? 2014 Was Earth’s Warmest Year On Record, Data Shows” – LA Times (1/16/15)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that in 134 years of record keeping, no year has been hotter around the globe than 2014. In fact, 2014 was the eighteenth year in a row where the average temperature increased in the U.S.

The President’s proposal will enable America to lead the way to avert the most calamitous impacts of climate change — such as sea level rise, dangerous heat waves, and economic disruption.

By reducing carbon pollution, we can also cut many types of air pollutants that threaten human health. We know climate change and rising temperatures will lead to increased ground level ozone and smog, and air pollutants from wildfires, and more heat-related and flood-related deaths.

I often say, if people can’t breathe, they can’t go to work or school. The Environmental Protection Agency finds that its’ proposal will avoid up to 3,700 cases of bronchitis in children, 150,000 asthma attacks, 3,300 heart attacks, 6,600 premature deaths and 490,000 missed days at school and work.

The Obama administration clearly gets it, and so do the American people. As recently reported in the New York Times, a new Stanford University poll found that 83% of Americans, including 61% of Republicans, say if nothing is done to reduce carbon pollution, global warming will be a serious problem in the future. And 77% of Americans say the federal government should be doing a substantial amount to combat climate change.

Last year, this Committee heard from four former EPA Administrators who served under Republican Presidents, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, and they all agreed that climate change requires action now and it should not be a partisan issue.

The President’s plan relies on the authorities under the Clean Air Act, which was created with an overwhelming bipartisan consensus. In 1970, the Clean Air Act passed the Senate by a vote of 73-0, passed the House by 375-1, and was signed into law by President Nixon.  The Clean Air Act has a proven track record of success. Since 1970, emissions of common air pollutants have dropped 72 percent, while the U.S. GDP has grown by 219 percent, and total private sector jobs have increased by 101 percent.

The President’s proposal will create thousands of jobs, while ensuring that big polluters reduce their dangerous contributions to climate change. The plan is also respectful of the states’ roles and allows major flexibility.

My home state of California has been a leader in proving that you can reduce carbon pollution and grow the economy. California households pay the ninth lowest electricity bills and the per person carbon footprint is among the lowest in the country. We also added 491,000 jobs in the first year of the state’s cap and trade system – a job growth rate of 3.3%, better than the national rate of 2.5% during the same period. And over the last four years, California has turned a $26 billion budget deficit into a projected $4 billion surplus.

Climate change is happening now and we cannot afford to wait. I commend the President and EPA for taking action to protect our families and children from the worst impacts of climate change. I want to thank Janet McCabe for being with us today, and I look forward to hearing her testimony.