Mitt Romney pleaded ignorance when asked to comment on the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule at the January 8, 2012 NBC News Facebook debate in Concord, NH:
John Distaso, NH Union Leader: Great, for Governor Romney, I'm gonna stay with you for one moment here. On the-- talking about regulation. One of your prime, New Hampshire supports, Senator Kelly Ayotte, has said, quote, "New Hampshire should not be the tailpipe for pollutants from out of state power plants." Many Senate Republicans attacked an EPA rule limiting air pollution that affects downwind states. But she and others, including Scott Brown, joined with the president and Senate Democrats to block a repeal effort. Now is this an example, this cross-state air pollution rule, of fair regulation? Something that we in the Northeast are very concerned about, in terms of-- pollution? Or is this over-regulation, job-killing over-regulation?
Mitt Romney: Well, I'm not-- I'm not familiar with this specific regulation, as it-- as it applies to-- to New Hampshire, but I do believe that we have a responsibility to keep the air clean. And we have to find ways to assure that we don’t have the pollution of one state overwhelming the-- the-- ability of another state to have clean air. I know in my state of Massachusetts, we-- we receive a lot of air from the rest of the country, obviously, given the winds coming from the West of the country to the East.
And so the responsibility in our state, was to get the cost-- get the-- the emissions from our power plants down. That's one of the reasons why we moved to natural gas. And-- and really, by the way, this-- this discussion about energy and security and getting the cost of gasoline down. The-- the big opportunity here is not just a new oil distribution system, but it's natural gas.
We have massive new natural gas reserves that have been found in Pennsylvania, in-- in North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas. Natural gas cheap, a fraction of the cost per BTU of-- of oil. If we want to help people in New England have-- not only homes and businesses that emit less pollutant into the air, and therefore would have cleaner air, and also have lower-cost energy, it's let's build out this natural gas system so that we can take advantage of that new enormous source of American economic strength.
The recent U.S. Senate vote to save the EPA clean air rule made national headlines.
New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, who has endorsed Romney, is on the former Massachusetts Governor’s list of potential running mates. She has joined Romney on the campaign trail on a number of occasions.
Just two months ago, Ayotte provided a nuanced explanation of her vote to save the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule:
Kelly Ayotte: Mr. President, I rise today to discuss Senate Joint Resolution 27, a resolution of disapproval of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. I appreciate my friend - the Senator from Kentucky - for bringing his concerns forward through this resolution. However, this is an issue that I have been extensively involved with as New Hampshire's former Attorney General, and I believe this resolution is misguided. This issue requires a balanced approach, and when looking at environmental regulations, we must view each on a case-by-case basis. In that vein, I cannot support this resolution.
The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is designed to control emissions of air pollution that cause air quality problems in downwind states, and is estimated to reduce power plant sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent and emissions from nitrogen oxides by 54 percent from 2005 levels. It is important to note that similar pollution standards have been in place for six years - first implemented by the Bush administration in 2005 - and many utilities have already taken steps to comply with the rule. The rule encourages the use of the best technology available so downwind states such as New Hampshire will be able to achieve national clean air standards. Without this rule in place, New Hampshire will be unable to achieve national clean air standards due to air pollution that is outside of the state's regulatory control.
We have a long, bipartisan tradition in New Hampshire of working to advance common sense, balanced environmental regulations. That's the perspective from which I approach this resolution. From my time as the state's Attorney General, I understand well that New Hampshire is one of several downwind states in what is infamously known as "America's tailpipe." For far too long, air pollution generated by Midwestern coal-fired power plants has been allowed to flow into the jet stream unabated and to settle in the New England region - leading to diminished air quality in my home state on New Hampshire.
As Attorney General, I worked to protect Granite State residents and our environment from air pollutants generated by Midwestern coal-fired power plants. The reality is that air pollution does not stop at state borders, and New Hampshire should not be the tailpipe for pollutants from out-of-state power plants. It is a matter of common sense to ensure that one state's emissions are not unduly harming another state's air quality.
I urge my colleagues to oppose the Resolution of Disapproval.