Bill Targets Transport Pollution

    WASHINGTON — Congressmen Pete Hoekstra and Vern Ehlers have announced that a proposed energy bill would postpone West Michigan emission controls and sanctions for violating clean air laws pending the outcome of a demonstration project that will address the effect of transported air pollution.

    “This provision requires the Environmental Protection Agency to step back and adequately study the issue of ozone transport from areas such as Milwaukee and Chicago before imposing harmful penalties on West Michigan,” said Hoekstra, R-Holland. “I firmly support the goal of cleaner air, but not when the proposed solution unfairly punishes communities which are powerless to solve the problem.”

    Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, shepherded two provisions into the 2004 energy bill, which officials said will be debated in the House this week. The provision requires the EPA to conduct the study with state and local elected officials.

    The House-Senate conference committee drafting the bill has 24 hours for debate before it plans to vote on it, during which time Upton will work to keep it included. The bill also delays attainment deadlines for areas with non-attainment status until upwind areas demonstrate that they have reduced air pollution.

    “As a member of the conference committee, I have been working to ensure that our communities in southwestern Michigan are not unfairly punished for air pollution that blows across the lake from such cities as Chicago, Milwaukee and Gary, Ind.,” said Upton.

    “My amendment is a logical, common sense solution that gets to the heart of the matter, establishing a two-year demonstration program to examine the effect of transported ozone in our towns and cities. Without the demonstration project, it seems the only way to comply with the new standard is to build huge fans on the shores of Lake Michigan and blow back the pollution to where it came from.”

    Ehlers, Hoekstra, Upton and others have been concerned that the EPA’s eight-hour ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard would saddle West Michigan with economic burdens and emission controls while providing no real improvement to the local environment or public health because the EPA’s rule would not address transport pollution from industrial areas on the western coast of Lake Michigan.

    “This is excellent news for residents and businesses in West Michigan,” said Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids. “Finally, after many years of debate and discussion, we will be able to determine the true effect of transport pollution and develop flexible, alternative solutions for West Michigan that will achieve the goal of cleaner air without first imposing costly requirements and penalties that could have devastating effects on local jobs and our economy.”

    If implemented as originally proposed, many counties in West Michigan initially would be subject to tighter controls on large new industrial plants and limits on highway projects, despite being able to do nothing to stop air-quality violations.

    West Michigan congressmen were concerned that the controls would limit new business investment and add to the cost of conducting business for companies already there.           

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