Press Release

NRDC Praises Congressional Leaders For Introducing Legislation Cutting Power Plant Emissions

Alyssondra Campaigne or Elliott Negin, 202-289-6868




Group Says Clean Air Act Defines Carbon Dioxide as a Pollutant

WASHINGTON (March 15, 2001) - NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) today praised Sens. Jim Jeffords (R-Vt.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) for introducing legislation calling for emissions cuts from the four major pollutants produced by electricity generation: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and carbon dioxide.

"In contrast to President Bush's about-face and short-sighted approach to dealing with global warming threats, these congressional leaders recognize that it is just common sense to control all the major emissions from power plants in an integrated program," said NRDC Legislative Director Alyssondra Campaigne. "Now it's up to Congress to pass this legislation and protect the nation's health and environment."

Contrary to the claims made yesterday by the president, CO2
is defined as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Carbon dioxide appears in section 103(g)(1) of the Clean Air Act, which states:

"[T]he Administrator shall conduct a basic engineering research and technology program to develop, evaluate, and demonstrate non regulatory strategies and technologies for air pollution prevention. Such strategies and technologies shall be developed with priority on those pollutants which pose a significant risk to human health and the environment... including sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, heavy metals, PM-10 (particulate matter), carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide, from stationary sources, including fossil fuel power plants..."

Electricity generation is the nation's single largest source of the four pollutants responsible for our most serious air pollution problems. Electric power plants release more than two-thirds of total U.S. emissions of sulfur dioxide, and more than one-third of each of the other three pollutants. These "four horsemen" of air pollution are hazardous to the environment and human health:

  • Fine particles contribute to tens of thousands of premature deaths in the United States each year;

  • Smog plagues our cities, and causes respiratory attacks in children and seniors;

  • Acid rain damages lakes, streams, forests and monuments;

  • Regional haze spoils trips to national parks for millions of visitors annually;

  • Nitrogen emissions contribute to over-fertilization of estuaries, including the Chesapeake Bay, Long Island Sound, Pamlico Sound and the Gulf of Mexico, leading to dead zones -- areas void of aquatic life;

  • Mercury contamination of lakes and streams has prompted 40 states to issue ongoing health advisories about consuming contaminated fish; and

  • Carbon dioxide-driven climate change threatens to disrupt weather patterns and cause sea levels to rise with unprecedented costs to the environment and human civilization.

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