Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) and Colorado Gov. Bill Owens (R) vetoed factory emissions bills in recent weeks, demonstrating the two executives’ differing approaches to clean air standards in light of ongoing improvements in the nation’s air quality.
New Regs in Arizona
Napolitano stymied the Arizona legislature on May 2 by vetoing a bill (S.B. 1356) that would have required the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to demonstrate human health risks before requiring air pollution standards more stringent than those set by the federal government.
The federal Clean Air Act lists specific pollutants that are considered hazardous to human health, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with setting standards for all major sources of those pollutants.
But under rules being considered by ADEQ, the agency could impose restrictions or require costly pollution control equipment whenever a place of business increases its emissions, even when the level of emissions does not exceed Clean Air Act standards.
S.B. 1356, approved by the state legislature on April 27, would have prevented ADEQ from imposing new restrictions on a place of business unless scientifically reliable evidence demonstrated that an increase in emissions was likely to harm human health.
Regulators Can Ignore Science
Supporting the governor’s veto and his own increase in regulatory power, ADEQ Director Steve Owens called the bill “one of the worst, if not the worst, environmental bills that the legislature has considered and approved in more than a decade,” in an April 24 press statement (emphasis in original).
“Air quality has been improving almost everywhere in the country and has been doing so for decades,” countered Dan Simmons, Natural Resources Task Force director for the American Legislative Exchange Council.
“Imposing state standards more stringent than federal standards is not only unnecessary to continue this clean-air trend, but would also be quite costly for the citizens of Arizona,” Simmons added.
New Standards Unnecessary
Owens, by contrast, on April 24 vetoed a bill that would have empowered the Colorado Air Quality Commission to enact restrictions more stringent than federal standards. He thus agreed with the Arizona legislature that the federal EPA has imposed sufficient restrictions on air pollution.
“Colorado’s air quality has been consistently improving over the last two decades,” Owens explained in an April 24 press statement. “As a result, all areas of Colorado are in compliance with federal and state health-based air quality standards.
“Over the last 20 years,” Owens continued, “carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate levels have been significantly reduced, even as Colorado’s population has increased rapidly. We should all take pride in the cleaner air our children now breathe.”
In addition to the unnecessary nature of more stringent state controls, Owens noted the state-specific requirements would put the Colorado economy at an unnecessary economic disadvantage relative to other states.
“If implemented, H.B. 1309 would hurt Colorado’s economic competitiveness,” Owens noted. “Colorado businesses depend on uniform national air quality standards to provide a level playing field throughout the country. While H.B. 1309 contains exemptions for a few industries, such as agriculture, the fact is that most businesses would be at a competitive disadvantage in the national marketplace, making it harder to attract new jobs to our state.”
Air Is Cleaner: Feds
While Arizona and Colorado officials debated whether to impose more stringent emissions rules, EPA released its Toxics Release Inventory showing industrial emissions declined by more than 4 percent from 2003 to 2004.
The report was especially encouraging regarding chemicals of greatest concern to EPA. According to the report, from 2003 to 2004 emissions of dioxin and dioxin compounds fell by 58 percent, emissions of mercury and mercury compounds fell by 16 percent, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) emissions fell by 92 percent.
“Today’s report demonstrates that economic growth and effective environmental protection can go hand-in-hand,” said Linda Travers, acting assistant administrator for the U.S. Office of Environmental Information, in an April 12 EPA news release. “We are encouraged to see a continued reduction in the overall amount of toxic chemicals being released into the environment.”
“These new data show that Owens, rather than Napolitano, better understands how to safeguard clean air without needlessly squandering the wealth of state citizens,” observed Sterling Burnett, senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.
James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.