A Thanksgiving Deal For Power Plants

Thank YOU President Bush and Christine Whitman

Just like many of you, I sat down this past Thanksgiving to a delicious dinner relishing the extra time with family and friends. Each year around the holiday time, amid hectic work schedules and party events, I make it a point to take time out and think about all of the things that I am thankful for. However, this year my thoughts were redirected toward issues surrounding me in my home state and across the country. I reflected on the ways in which families were handling the second holiday season following September 11, the many individuals struggling to survive in the Middle East, and about major policy decisions being implemented by President Bush.

This year, I wonder how former Governor Christine Todd Whitman spent her Thanksgiving, considering how she spent the week before–preparing to announce the Bush Administration’s decision to allow old, coal-powered plants in midwestern and southern states to continue to emit harmful airborne pollution over New Jersey and the Northeast. Did the former governor even consider her home state and the public health problems this decision will ultimately cause?

These days, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman lives and works in Washington D.C. Given the new EPA rules, I doubt that either she or President Bush spend much time thinking about New Jersey at all. After all, New Jersey does not deliver the key Republican votes or campaign contributions that the powerhouse Midwestern states and industries have delivered in the past.

The Administration’s new federal rules relieve utilities, refineries, and manufacturers from the requirement to install anti-pollution equipment when they modernize, a measure formerly required under the New Source Review rules of the Clean Air Act. Previously, older plants had been exempt from the rules, providing that they did not implement expansions or other significant upgrades. The new regulations allow these older plants to make upgrades and expansions without following the anti-pollution requirements of the rules.

What does all of this mean for New Jersey and the Northeast? Considering that industrial pollution can be carried 500 miles by prevailing winds, it means a great deal. It means New Jersey’s efforts to improve its air quality–which already ranks among worst in the country–are a lost cause. Futhermore, thanks to the Bush Administration, our state’s residents will now endure more pollution than ever before.

In addition, New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the country, will be hard hit with hazy skies and an increase in breathing-related illnesses. More of our children will contract asthma and more of our senior citizens will struggle for a breath of fresh air.

Moreover, the federal decision means that our former governor, who strongly supported the New Source Review as Chief Executive of New Jersey, has completely sold out to a Republican President who has made it clear that he neither knows nor cares about this great state.

I recently introduced a Senate Resolution, SR-120, which condemns these new federal rules in an effort to send a clear message to the President and his EPA Administrator that New Jersey will simply not stand for these heinous regulations. We are aware of the effects of these rules and we refuse to idly stand by and watch the Bush Administration cut deals with its Republican friends while risking the health of New Jersey residents. It is my hope that my fellow Senators will lend unanimous bipartisan support to this resolution when it comes before the full Senate for a vote. The President and Administrator Whitman have made a political game out of our residents’ wellness. We must stand together and tell them that our families’ health is never a game.

We must work together to preserve our clean air so that our children and grandchildren might someday step outside of their homes and breathe clean air.

Now that would be something to give thanks for.

Senator Coniglio represents the 38th legislative district, which includes parts of Bergen County. The senator is a member of the Senate State Government Committee and the Senate Labor Committee.