Landmark Power Plant Clean-Up Bill Headed to Senate Floor; Provides Pollution Relief, Counters White House Assault on Clean Air Safeguards

Jeffords Bill Has Consumer Protection, Market Incentives for Clean Energy Technology

WASHINGTON, DC (June 27, 2002) -- Comprehensive legislation to protect Americans' health and the environment is headed to the Senate Floor after clearing the Environment & Public Works Committee today on tri-partisan vote of 10-9. The power plant clean-up bill reduces air pollution nationwide, including emissions responsible for smog, global warming, acid rain and mercury contamination.

The Clean Power Act -- S.556, introduced by Senators James Jeffords (I-Vt.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) -- delivers strong pollution safeguards, and counters clean air rollbacks announced by the White House earlier this month. It includes market-based incentives for clean energy technologies, and measures to protect consumer pocketbooks.

"The Clean Power Act proves that we can take concrete steps today to cut emissions that are polluting our air and causing global warming," said David G. Hawkins, director of the NRDC Climate Center. "Stronger safeguards will protect the health of our families from power plant pollution and protect our environment."

"The bill makes sure that consumers, not polluters, get the best deal, and it uses market-based tools to reward American know-how and innovative technologies," Hawkins added.

Power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides each year cause an estimated 30,000 deaths and 600,000 asthma attacks. Power plants are responsible for 40 percent of our global warming pollution and a third of U.S. mercury emissions. Up to 390,000 newborns each year face neurological development risks due to prenatal mercury exposure.

Countering White House Rollbacks
Sen. Jeffords' bill cuts nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions by 75 percent, and cuts heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent. Electric companies can achieve these targets through a market-based system that rewards innovation and clean technology, so long as safe air quality standards are met throughout the country. The legislation would slash mercury emissions by 90 percent.

In contrast, the Bush Administration's power plant proposal actually delays other pollution cuts already required under the Clean Air Act by up to 10 years, and does nothing to reduce global warming. The Bush plan would allow 50 percent more sulfur emissions than current law, and delay safer standards by 8 years; it would permit three times more toxic mercury emissions than existing law; and it would allow hundreds of thousands tons of additional nitrogen oxide pollution.

The Clean Power Act would also nullify the administration's attempted rollback of Clean Air Act protections provided by the New Source Review program. The White House rollback would exempt old, highly polluting power plants from modern clean air standards in perpetuity.

Safeguarding Families, Protecting Consumers
The Clean Power Act lowers consumer costs in two ways: First, through market incentives for energy-saving technologies, and second through an innovative consumer rebate provision that works through the market trading system. Revenue from sales of so-called pollution allowances -- "permits to pollute" used by electric generating companies -- would be returned directly to consumers. Unlike other approaches, the Clean Power Act avoids giving companies a multi-billion dollar gift at the expense of consumers.

The bill also rewards those companies that produce energy from pollution-free sources such as wind and solar, as well as certain cleaner fossil fuel technologies. It offers incentives for energy savings in factories, homes and other buildings, as well as manufacture of a wide range of products that meet federal Energy Star efficiency standards.

While the U.S. as a whole will reap substantial economic benefits under the Clean Power Act, a few communities and businesses may face disproportionate costs. The bill provides transition assistance worth up to $18 billion over a 10-year period -- 80 percent of it dedicated to workers and their communities.

Clean Power Act Saves Money
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, when implemented with the bill's integrated efficiency and renewable energy policies, the comprehensive Clean Power Act would save businesses and consumers $16 billion in net electricity costs in 2010 compared with business-as-usual. By 2020, savings would reach more than $40 billion.

Strong Bi-Partisan Support
The Clean Power Act has 22 Senate cosponsors so far, including Joseph Biden (D-DE), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), James Jeffords (I-Vt.), Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

A companion bill in the House has 128 cosponsors.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Related NRDC Pages
The Clean Power Act: A Comprehensive Solution to Power-Plant Pollution
Untangling the Accounting Gimmicks in White House Global Warming, Pollution Plans