Alexander stresses support of clean air rule
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is not backing down on clean air despite an ad campaign by a conservative advocacy group targeting his stance.
Alexander, during a press conference Friday at Twin City Nissan on Alcoa Highway, announced he will support a new federal clean air rule. The Environmental Protection Agency rule would require coal-fired power plants to put on advanced pollution control equipment to control mercury emissions along with 186 other pollutants, including arsenic, acid gases and toxic metals, as required by the Clean Air Act amendments passed by Congress in 1990.
Alexander, R-Tenn., plans on Tuesday to vote against a resolution by Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe disapproving of the EPA’s Utility MACT rule. To reduce costs, he has introduced legislation with Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.. to allow six years to comply with the rule, a timeline many utilities have requested.
“For 10 years, I’ve fought to have clean air,” Alexander said. “If we look over there, we should be able to see 100 miles to Clingmans Dome. We can see only 24 miles on a bad day.”
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the nation’s most polluted parks, he said. “I remember talking to the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce, and they told me their No. 1 priority was clean air. People want to see the Great Smoky Mountains — not the Great Smoggy Mountains.”
The state could also attract more business and industry with clean air, Alexander said. “Nissan wouldn’t be here without clean air. The first thing Nissan did when it came to Tennessee was apply for an air quality permit for emissions from its paint plant. If Nashville’s air had already been too dirty to allow these emissions, Nissan would have gone to Georgia, and one-third of Tennessee’s manufacturing jobs today would not be auto jobs.”
He also stressed the EPA rule won’t harm the coal industry. “It’s pro-coal, not anti-coal. It ensures clean coal will be a part of the nation’s energy plan for years to come.”
The nation’s energy plan will be “one-third coal, one-third nuclear and one-third natural gas with a little bit of hydroelectricity,” Alexander said.
American Commitment, a recently formed conservative advocacy group, began last week airing commercials targeting Alexander and three other senators who may cast key votes on the legislation.
However, Alexander isn’t fazed by the campaign. “Most East Tennesseeans want clean air,” he said. “They don’t like living in an area with No. 1 (challenging place to live with) asthma (in the nation).”
TVA is installing the same pollution controls on its coal-fired power plants, Alexander said. “TVA alone can’t clean the air, because it’s blowing in from other states.”
He then stressed the importance of equity. “If we’re going to do it, they (neighboring states) should be doing it.”