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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)


Air Date: Week of

President Clinton ended months of speculation by backing the Environmental Protection Agency's new stringent air pollution reduction rules. Now Congress gets a chance to review the regulations, and many in industry have vowed to fight the clean air rules. James Jones reports from Washington.


CURWOOD: The day before President Clinton came to the Earth Summit, he ended months of speculation by backing a stringent set of rules to reduce smog levels and restrict, for the first time, fine soot particles. The measures had been formally proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency under Carol Browner in response to a lawsuit brought by the American Lung Association. Children's health, said the President, was a major reason he was approving the new Clean Air rules.

CLINTON: In America the incidence of childhood asthma has been increasing rapidly. It is now the single biggest reason our children are hospitalized. These measures will help to change that, to improve health of people of all ages and to prevent as many as 15,000 premature deaths a year.

CURWOOD: In the past such rules would have simply gone in to effect, subject to court challenge. But under a new law passed last year, Congress has the right to review regulations. And many industry groups have vowed to fight the Clean Air rules there. James Jones has our report.

JONES: After a protracted and contentious campaign to convince the White House to back her Clean Air proposals, EPA Administrator Carol Browner now can expect a barrage of Congressional opposition to her efforts to tighten pollution limits on smog and soot. Several bills that would delay implementation of the Clean Air standards have already been introduced in Congress. Ohio Representative Bob Ney offered one of them. He says he won't rest until he finds a way to make the Administration reconsider Browner's proposal.

NEY: I'm going to do every single thing every single day as long as I'm breathing in this Congress to get her appropriations, to find out the flaws in the Agency. To do any single thing and combine with any person of any political philosophy to stop this, what I call government hallucination about these rules.

JONES: One hundred and eighty House members of both parties have registered concerns about the rules. Mayors, many governors, and the entire business community have also voiced their opposition. But Gene Karpinsky, head of the US Public Interest Research Group, argues that so far critics of the rule haven't been very effective in swaying the one group that matters most: the public.

KARPINSKY: Industry has already spent tens of millions of dollars in their disinformation campaign with all their scares, all their lies, all their half- truths. So we don't expect them to go away and take this lightly. However, what we do know is that despite that multi-million-dollar scare campaign, the public has not been fooled.

JONES: Karpinsky says environmental groups will begin a nationwide media campaign to spur the public to convince Congress to support the rules. California Congressman Henry Waxman believes some opposition to the rules will fade, once critics realize the Administration is committed to reducing fiscal burdens the standards might impose on industry and local government.

WAXMAN: A lot of the steam will be taken out of the opposition that has been whipped up by some of the industry groups that are trying to pre-empt this decision on the standards.

JONES: Waxman also thinks the Republican leadership is in no position to wage an all-out war against the rules. He says they're still smarting from criticisms for their attack on environmental regulations during the last Congress. One moderate Republican who doesn't want to see a fight on Clean Air come down to a vote is Representative Sherry Boehlert of New York. He supports the rules and says in the end, cooler heads will prevail.

BOEHLERT: I think everyone should sort of calm down for the moment. I think most people are giving a knee-jerk reaction to these proposed standards, but when all is said and done I am convinced that the heaviest weight comes down on the side of the standards.

JONES: Debate on the EPA's Clean Air standards will begin after Congress returns from the July 4th recess. For Living on Earth, this is James Jones in Washington.



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