Legislative round-up for Oct. 8, 2015

New ozone rule risks new jobs in 7 Tenn. counties

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander
Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, D.C. — New ozone rules set by the White House jeopardize the economies of at least 358 counties nationwide, including at least seven in Tennessee, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said last Thursday.

“This rule is premature. Recent federal pollution-control rules reducing ozone-causing pollutants — which I have consistently supported — are already making our air significantly cleaner and healthier. We need to give the regulations already put in place time to work before impose new burdensome regulations could make it harder for them to attract new jobs,” Alexander said.

He continued, “If counties in Tennessee want to encourage job growth, they’ve got to have clean air so companies can easily get permits to build new plants or expand existing facilities. Counties with poor air quality need to have time to comply with the current ozone standard before EPA implements a new ozone standard.”

The new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, approved by the Obama Administration on Oct. 1, will reduce the allowable ozone level in the air from 75 ppb (parts per billion) to 70 ppb.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, counties must meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards to achieve “attainment status.” Counties who don’t must comply with tougher air emission standards, making it harder to attract companies looking to build new plants or expand existing operations.

As of January 2015, there were 227 counties in 26 states and D.C. that had ozone over the current 75 ppb limit. Four were in Tennessee. This summer, Anderson, Blount and Knox counties reached attainment for ozone, and only Shelby County remains on the list of counties in Tennessee that do not have attainment status for ozone.

The new EPA ozone standard could put more Tennessee counties in danger of not meeting ozone requirements — joining at least 358 counties nationwide that could be in jeopardy, based on EPA monitoring figures.

In June, Alexander cosponsored The Clean Air, Strong Economies (CASE) Act with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) to prevent EPA from tightening the ozone standard until 85 percent of counties in nonattainment for ozone in January could meet the 75 ppb standard.

Nearly $1.75M announced in health care funds

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last Thursday, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) announced $1,450,732 in federal funding for Christ Community Health Services and an additional $283,932 for the Memphis Health Center, for a total of $1,734,664 for the Memphis area.

The funding comes through the U.S. Depart-ment of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Health Center Cluster and Health Infrastructure Investment Program grant programs, which aim to support primary health care services in underserved areas and allow health centers to better meet community needs.

“Christ Community Health Services and the Memphis Health Center provide vital services to the Memphis community,” Cohen said. “These new federal funds will help continue to provide the citizens of Memphis with the health care they need, regardless of where they live or how much they make.”

Memphis Health Center was founded in 1970 to improve community health and well-being for the citizens of Shelby and Fayette counties. Christ Community Health Services has focused on fulfilling the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of the poor, uninsured and homeless in Memphis since 1995.

Alexander: Dems playing politics with vet funding

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said last Thursday that Senate Democrats prevented the Senate from voting on an appropriations bill that would have funded veterans programs, including veterans medical services, as well as military construction.

“There’s no reason other than to play politics for Senate Democrats to block what has always been a bipartisan bill to fund our veterans’ needs and important military construction projects across the country,” Alexander said. “It’s time for Senate Democrats to let the Senate do what it’s supposed to do — debate and amend the 12 appropriations bills so we can set spending priorities instead of moving from one short-term funding bill to another.”

The Fiscal Year 2016 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this year and would provide:

  • $77.6 billion in funding for military construction and the Dept. of Veterans Affairs.
  • $94.5 billion in funding for veteran compensation programs and pensions.
  • $8 billion for military construction and family housing.
  • $12.5 million for the U.S. Special Operations Forces Company Headquarters and new classrooms at Ft. Campbell.