To Senator Ed Muskie
The amendments to the Clean Air Act of 1970 which the Senate will soon consider are of critical importance to the success of our public health and environmental programs.
My EPA Administrator, Doug Costle, my Energy Advisor, Jim Schlesinger, and I studied the issues associated with these amendments very carefully before submitting the Administration's recommendations to the Congress last April. We examined the auto emission schedule proposed by Senators Griffin and Riegle, and found it unnecessarily lax from the technology and fuel economy standpoints, and inadequate in view of the need to protect the health of our citizens in urban areas.
More than 96 million people in at least 48 of our cities breathe air which exceeds the federal health-based air quality standards. Asthma, chronic lung disease, respiratory illness, and cardiovascular attacks are among the health impacts which auto pollution can cause. These effects are particularly severe in children and in the elderly. We cannot hope to have a successful public health program in this country without a major effort to reduce pollutant levels in our air.
Fortunately, however, auto emissions are controllable without jeopardizing our ability to meet fuel economy standards, adding substantially to the cost of automobiles, or costing our economy the jobs we so vitally need. While we have made some progress in reducing auto pollution, the technology is available to do better.
The proposal which I submitted to the Congress, like the Committee bill, will require use of emissions clean-up technology which is inherently more efficient than that being used today. The Griffin-Riegle proposal would encourage continued use of this less efficient technology, thereby compromising our ability to protect public health and achieve our fuel economy goals.
Control of auto pollution also has direct bearing on economic growth and our ability to provide jobs in our cities. Each additional increment of unnecessary pollution-pollution which could be controlled--is wasting those air quality margins which would otherwise be available for development in our urban areas. The unnecessary relaxation of auto emissions standards and clean-up schedule proposed in the Griffin-Riegle amendment would exacerbate the already difficult choices which our cities now face in providing for both economic growth and protection of public health. It would also hinder our program to make increased use of coal.
For these reasons, I remain firmly opposed to the proposal made by Senators Griffin and Riegle.
On another matter, I want to reiterate my support for the Committee's provisions for protection of air quality in areas which are now cleaner than required by the primary ambient air quality standards, particularly our national parks and wilderness areas. As I stated in my Energy and Environmental Messages, we can achieve our energy goals without sacrificing environmental quality. We can build those power plants which are needed without ruining the air quality of our national parks. Amendments such as those offered by Messrs. Breaux and Emery in the House of Representatives defeat the very purpose for which these spectacular natural areas have been set aside. I urge that you and your colleagues oppose any amendments which would weaken our ability to protect these irreplaceable resources.
An identical letter is being sent to Chairman Randolph and Senator Stafford.