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[greenyes] Administration and Senate Republican Approach to Clean Air Debate





BushGreenwatch

..............................


March 8, 2005
Bush "Clear Skies" Bill Showdown Tomorrow

President Bush's controversial "Clear Skies" legislation appears finally due
for a markup tomorrow in the Senate Environment and Public Works committee.
Committee Chair James Inhofe (R-OK)--noted for his unabashed public disdain
for environmental regulations (he once assailed EPA employees as "a Gestapo
bureaucracy")--has twice postponed the markup in hopes of finding one member
willing to break a 9-9 deadlock over the legislation.
His targets have included Democratic Senators Barack Obama (Illinois), Max
Baucus (Montana), and Republican Lincoln Chafee (Rhode Island), but so far
none of them has indicated support for Clear Skies in its present form.
President Bush last Friday urged passage of the bill, calling it
"common-sense, pro-environment, pro-jobs." Sen. Inhofe aims to finish
drafting a final bill by March 15.
Opponents say the proposed bill has been so weakened by industry lobbying
that the current Clean Air Act--if properly enforced--does far more to
reduce smog and soot-forming gases than Clear Skies. Indeed, even powerful
Republican Governors like New York's George Pataki and California's Arnold
Schwarzenegger do not support it. They oppose the bill's removal of Clean
Air Act protections that allow individual states to establish their own
pollution controls that are stronger than the federal standards. [1]
Inhofe antagonized clean air advocates last month when he called for an
Internal Revenue Service investigation of an organization that opposes the
legislation--even though the group is a bipartisan association of state air
pollution officials. A member of the group, known as STAPPA (State and
Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators), has testified before
Inhofe's committee that Clear Skies "simply was not protective enough" for
the public good and "too lenient" on polluters.
Inhofe's tactic was blasted by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) as "a blatant
attempt at intimidation and bullying." Congressional hearings, said Waxman,
"should be an attempt at honest fact-finding, not thuggery. A committee has
no right to intimidate witnesses."
The Inhofe maneuver was further faulted in a statement by the Environmental
Integrity Project (EIP), headed by Eric Schaeffer, former director of EPA's
Office of Regulatory Enforcement. Schaeffer resigned from EPA in 2002 in
protest of the Bush Administration's efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act and
other environmental protections.
Said EIP: "Are the proponents of the unpopular Clear Skies legislation now
publicly conceding that their case is so weak that the only way they can
counter their opponents is to threaten them until they shut up? Is this the
kind of conduct we will tolerate in the United States Senate?" [2]
###

SOURCES:
[1] Pataki & Schwarzenegger letter, Jan. 2005.
[2] EIP briefer, Mar. 2, 2005.


_________________________
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