Statement Of Christine Todd Whitman
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
May 7, 2003
Christine Todd Whitman
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
I'd like to welcome all of you to the last of EPA's six public listening sessions to discuss and develop the National Agenda on the Environment and the Aging.
I would like to thank the University of Maryland's Schools of Nursing and Medicine, the Center for Research on Aging and the Baltimore Commission on Aging and Retirement Education for sponsoring this important event and our partners from the state and local government for participating and helping to facilitate this session.
While this is an opportunity to hear from you, there have been several issues raised throughout our series of listening sessions that I would like to address up front.
I know that some of you have serious concerns with an alternative benefits analysis incorporated in the appendix of several recently proposed rules.
Let me just say, we have not based any of our policy decisions on analysis that discounts any American life, whether infant, child, adult, or senior.
The approach that is of concern to you has periodically been used since the Clinton Administration as an alternative analysis that augments, not replaces, EPA's traditional method of determining benefits.
The Senior Discount factor that has caused so much concern has been discontinued by OMB for EPA regulations, and the bottom line is that EPA will not -- repeat not -- use an age adjusted analysis for decision making with Clear Skies or any other program or regulatory effort.
EPA is committed to the use of sound economic science, and we will continue to use our traditional, peer reviewed methodology to inform the decision-making process.
In addition, I would like to address the concerns that have been raised regarding this Administration's work to make our air cleaner.
There has been a lot of confusing and misleading information about our clean air policies, specifically mixing up New Source Review (NSR) with Clear Skies, which are two distinctly different issues.
NSR is a program under the current Clean Air Act to require manufacturing facilities and power plants to modernize pollution controls when upgrading their facilities. Good in theory, but it hasn't worked as well in practice. NSR is only triggered when a facility increases emissions and we find out about it.
This has made NSR very difficult to enforce and comply with, so much so that the Clinton Administration began looking at ways to reform NSR nearly a decade ago.
Recently, we finalized five reforms to NSR - reforms that will not, as some have suggested, make it easier for older power plants to avoid adding new pollution-reduction equipment because they really don't apply to older power plants. These changes apply to manufacturing sources, not utilities.
In the meantime, we are actively pursuing enforcement cases under NSR. Just recently, we announced a $600 million settlement with Wisconsin Electric Power Company. As a result 104,000 tons of harmful emissions will be removed from our air each year over the next ten years.
In fact this Administration has brought some of the largest enforcement actions in the Agency's history under NSR. While good, the unfortunate fact is that our enforcement actions take place after the damage has already been done. In the Wisconsin case, additional pollution was being pumped into our atmosphere for 13 years before this latest settlement was achieved.
It's important to point out that the debate over NSR reform and power plant pollution will be immaterial if Congress passes the President's Clear Skies proposal.
The Clear Skies Act would force reductions of 70% of three of the most dangerous pollutants emitted by power plants - nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury. It would get us the reductions up front, instead of having to wait for pollution to increase before we act.
Some have suggested that Clear Skies is an attempt to undo or undermine the Clean Air Act. That's simply not true. On the contrary, with Clear Skies we recognize that to achieve the next generation of environmental progress, we must improve the laws that have served us so well.
With Clear Skies, as with all our environmental work, the goal of this Administration is to improve the health and quality of life for all Americans; including older Americans.
One thing we know is that the older we are the more susceptible we become to threats from the environment, which may cause or worsen life-threatening conditions. As a result, we have made protecting the health of older Americans a top priority.
The purpose of these listening sessions is to develop a National Agenda on the Environment and Aging that will help prioritize and address the environmental health risks older Americans face.
From our work to improve the product labeling on pesticides so that they're easier to read and understand, to our research into the interaction between a heavy drug regimen and exposure to pollutants, we are engaged in a wide range of issues that affect the lives of older Americans.
President Bush has strengthened our commitment to addressing these and other issues by requesting one million dollars for Aging Initiative research efforts in his FY >04 budget.
An area of particular concern to older Americans is the health impacts caused by poor indoor air quality.
Indoor environmental triggers, such as mold, dust, and secondhand smoke, can exacerbate respiratory and heart conditions, trigger asthma attacks, and limit activity levels.
In fact, one of the most common health problems among older Americans, Chronic Obstructive Respiratory Disease (COPD), is made much worse by poor environmental conditions.
COPD claims the lives of 100,000 older Americans each year. At EPA, we want to raise awareness that there are steps you can take to improve your home environment, which can help reduce the symptoms of this disease.
To help us get this message out, we are unveiling a poster today that will be distributed to over 10,000 senior centers around the country.
If you would like to learn more about this effort or any of our work on aging issues, I would encourage you to visit our website at: http://www.epa.gov/aging
As we pursue our goal to improve the lives of older Americans, we want to ensure that the people who have the most to gain - older Americans - and those who care for their health - have a direct hand in crafting the Agenda that will guide our work.
Your participation here today is crucial to the success of this Agenda and our work to meet the environmental challenges we face as we grow older.