1997 Scorecard Vote
In July 1997, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued regulations under the Clean Air Act updating the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone (smog) and particulates (soot). EPA had not modified the ozone standard since 1979 and the particulate standard since 1987, although the law provides for review of these standards every five years.
A significant amount of research completed in recent years links existing levels of smog and particulate air pollution to illness, hospitalization, and premature death, particularly among the aged, children, and those with asthma and other lung impairments. The new ozone standard replaces the one-hour ozone standard with an eight-hour measure because health research has shown long-term exposure is the most dangerous to human health. EPA set a new "fine particle" standard for particulates in recognition of research showing that the very smallest particles penetrate into human lungs far more effectively than the larger particles regulated under the old standard, and cause premature death.
The new air quality standards provoked a bipartisan, largely regional and industry-generated debate in Congress. Currently, many counties, especially in the Midwest and Southeast, experience air pollution that exceeds the new standards. Areas out of compliance will be required to develop and implement strategies for reducing emissions from industrial sources, power plants, and motor vehicles. By applying broader regional pollution controls, areas with the most serious air pollution problems will experience improved air quality because a significant portion of the air pollution is transported hundreds of miles by prevailing winds.
Reps. Ron Klink (D-PA) and Fred Upton (R-MI) introduced H.R. 1984, the "Moratorium on Establishment of the Ozone and Fine Particulate Matter Standards," and mounted a bipartisan cosponsorship drive. The bill would, for the first time in the 27-year history of the Clean Air Act, substitute Congress' political judgment for EPA's scientific judgment. H.R. 1984 would cancel EPAs new ozone and fine particle standards, re-instate the old standards, and require EPA to "re-decide" whether to issue new standards five years from now after reviewing additional research completed during this period. The Klink-Upton bill would significantly delay by several years EPA's efforts to reduce the emissions contributing to unhealthy levels of smog and soot despite a widely held belief among doctors and other health professionals that the old standards do not adequately protect public health.
While Reps. Klink and Upton were seeking cosponsors to H.R. 1984, Reps. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) drafted letters supporting EPA's new clean air standards and obtained signatures from a bipartisan coalition of 140 Congressmen. This number helps ensure that there is sufficient support in the House for the new standards so that even if the bill is passed the opposition will not have the necessary votes to override a presidential veto.
Establishing updated air quality standards was the national environmental community's top priority for most of 1997. State and local environmental and health organizations across the country worked to deliver the clean air message in Congressmen's districts.
The League of Conservation Voters considers co-sponsoring H.R. 1984 an anti-environmental action. 197 House Members have cosponsored the bill.