On July 30, 1997, the House Commerce Subcommittee on Health and Environment held a hearing to examine the implementation of Title VI of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. The specific topics covered were the Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund, methyl bromide regulation, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in metered-dose inhalers (MDIs). Subcommittee Chairman Michael Bilirakis (R-FL) opened the hearing saying that the Subcommittee needed to "peel away the layers of democratic speech" to see if the Montreal Protocol has actually worked. Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) expressed concern that phasing out CFCs in MDIs might harm asthmatics and that phasing out methyl bromide may have adversely affected agriculture. Rep. Elizabeth Furse (D-OR) emphasized that agencies and Congress should reject "zero-sum" approaches to these policies because one group would be pitted against another.
Mr. Lawrence Dyckman, Associate Director of the US General Accounting Office (GAO) Environmental Protection Issues, Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division, and Mr. Ralph Lowry, a Senior Evaluator with the GAO, participated in Panel I. Mr. Dyckman testified on the GAO review of the Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund. The Montreal Protocol, signed by the US and 161 other nations in 1987, seeks to eliminate substances that deplete stratospheric ozone. These substances include CFCs, halons, and carbon tetrachloride. According to Mr. Dyckman, the treaty was signed by most of the developed nations, but by very few developing, or Article 5, countries. To alleviate this problem, Amendments to the Protocol were drawn up in 1990. The Amendments establish the Multilateral Fund, which is a collection of funds contributed by developed countries and then dispensed to developing countries to aid them in their efforts to reduce and eliminate ozone-depleting substances (ODS). Countries may receive assistance from the fund if their consumption of ODS is less than 0.3 kilograms per capita per year. The ODS reduction projects are implemented mainly by four organizations: the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
According to the GAO review and Mr. Dyckman's testimony, as of January 31, 1997, 22 developed countries had paid their share, 13 developed countries (including the US) had paid most of their share, three had paid less than half, and 11 had not paid at all. Countries are allowed to pay by cash or promissory notes, which allow a country to defer their outlay of cash to the Fund. Generally, promissory notes to the Fund are cashed in six equal payments over three years. In their review, the GAO determined that the US could save $2 million to $3 million each year if the government starts paying in promissory notes or letters of credit instead of cash. Mr. Dyckman testified that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of State have agreed with the concept of the GAO recommendation and are investigating the options associated with other payment methods.
Chairman Bilirakis asked Mr. Dyckman and Mr. Lowry why some countries have not paid their full share of funds. Mr. Dyckman replied that several countries were assessed as being able to pay a certain amount and since that time, the country's economic circumstances may have changed. As a result, those countries contribute less than the assessed amount. Rep. Bilirakis then expressed concern about China's status as a developing country and thus their ability to receive aid from the Fund. Mr. Dyckman replied that China and India have the greatest potential to reduce emissions, and therefore, they receive the most funds. When Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) asked how the Fund was operating overall, Mr. Dyckman replied that it is doing a "fair job" of accomplishing its goals.
The Panel II participants were:
Mr. Pomerance testified that the Montreal Protocol is an "outstanding example of international cooperation to protect our planet." He said that complete recovery of the ozone layer can be expected by 2050, assuming full implementation of and compliance with the Protocol. Mr. Pomerance testified that the current US contribution to the Multilateral Fund is $38.8 million each year over three years and that if there is any way to legitimately save money, the government will do it.
Mr. Pitts testified on the Clean Air Act phase-out of methyl bromide as a fumigant for agricultural use. Methyl bromide, an ODS, is supposed to be phased out by 2001, under the Clean Air Act. Mr. Pitts said that the "USDA is working to meet [their] goals of serving the needs of US growers, maintaining [the US'] diverse food production systems and protecting the global environment." Finally, Mr. Pitts described three strategies that the USDA is undertaking to meet these goals:
Mr. Stolpman assured the Subcommittee that "that global phase-out of CFCs and other ODS is an unparalleled triumph of the soundest science, economics, and diplomacy to date." He discussed the major decision made at the Eighth Meeting of the Parties of the Montreal Protocol in November 1996 in Costa Rica: replenishment of the Multilateral Fund. At the meeting, the Parties decided to replenish the Fund for 1997 to 1999 with $540 million. The Ninth Meeting of the Parties is to be held in September 1997 and, according to Mr. Stolpman, will probably focus on strengthening controls on halogenated CFCs and methyl bromide, a highly toxic pesticide. He said that bromine from methyl bromide, molecule for molecule, depletes stratospheric ozone 60 times more effectively than chlorine from CFCs. Finally, Mr. Stolpman said that the US must "continue [its] leadership role in the Multilateral Fund, meet [its] phase-out commitments to the Montreal Protocol, work to find alternatives to methyl bromide, and take the responsible road of decreasing the risk of skin cancers and cataracts for present and future generations."
Dr. Lumpkin testified on the phase-out of CFC-based MDIs, which are used to administer medicine for the treatment of asthma. He said that "the [FDA's] focus is, and will remain, the health and safety of patients who currently use MDIs." A technical panel to the Montreal Protocol suggested a target date of 2005 for the phase-out of CFCs in MDIs; however, no target date was adopted by the Parties to the Montreal Protocol and no date has been proposed by the FDA. Dr. Lumpkin assured the Subcommittee that the "FDA's primary objective in meeting the statutory requirements to phase out CFC-based MDIs is to ensure that the health and safety of the millions of patients in the United States ... are not compromised and that they continue to have access to an adequate number of treatment options."
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Contributed by Stephanie Barrett, AGI Government Affairs Intern
Last updated August 4, 1997