Bush Air Pollution Plan Up Against Deadlocked Senate Committee
WASHINGTON Supporters of President Bush's air-pollution plan on Wednesday renewed their push to win its enactment but appear to lack the votes to advance it in the Senate.
Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, along with Sen. Jim Jeffords, a Vermont independent, and moderate Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, can keep the bill bottled up in the 18-member committee, according to committee staff.
They favor adding regulation of carbon dioxide, the chief "greenhouse" gas blamed for global warming, to the three pollutants the Bush administration proposes for its emissions-trading plan: mercury, a toxic metal; sulfur dioxide, which forms acid rain; and nitrogen oxides, a contributor to smog.
Republican senators favoring the Bush proposal hope that opponents will at least allow for a debate of the plan on the Senate floor. The Bush administration has been trying for three years to get Congress to endorse it.
The plan would allow states and utilities to have a pollution trading system in which plants unable to meet the required reductions could buy emission allowances from other plants that have exceeded the required cuts. The Senate bill is sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio.
Jeffords and Tom Carper, D-Del., have each offered competing plans that would also deal with industrial emissions of carbon dioxide.
"The president's plan does not go far enough, fast enough, and it completely misses the mark on carbon dioxide and global warming," Carper said.
"The key here is: Do we regulate carbon dioxide?" said Chafee, who noted that even Bush had favored regulating carbon dioxide in his 2000 campaign but then broke that promise.
Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., another committee member, said any "carbon mandate" would kill the bill.
In the meantime, the administration plans an alternative approach to changing the Clean Air Act: changing an Environmental Protection Agency rule in mid-March that would similarly require hundreds of coal-fired power plants to cut sharply their emissions.
However, Inhofe said that in contrast to rewriting the law, issuing new federal rules does "nothing but invite lawsuits and uncertainty."
At a subcommittee hearing Wednesday chaired by Voinovich, the nation's mayors stopped short of endorsing Bush's plan, but they agreed utilities must install pollution control equipment in a timely, cost-efficient way.
"We support many of the goals of your legislation," said Bob Young, mayor of Augusta, Ga., and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors' energy committee.
The nation's air quality agencies oppose they bill, saying it would undermine the existing Clean Air Act, which they say would do more to cut pollution.
"This would set us back 25 or 30 years on controls that we know are necessary," said John Paul, supervisor of a six-county air pollution control agency in Dayton, Ohio. Paul represented two trade groups for the nation's state and local air pollution control officials.
Source: Associated Press