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Senate Kills Bush Pollution Bill
ABC News
Senate Panel Deadlocks Over Pollution Bill
Senate Panel Deadlocks Over Top Bush Environmental Priority to Extend Air Pollution Deadlines
By JOHN HEILPRIN Associated Press Writer
Mar 9, 2005

WASHINGTON Mar 9, 2005 — President Bush's top environmental priority giving power plants, factories and refineries more time to reduce their air pollution suffered a major setback Wednesday as a Republican-controlled committee rejected it in the Senate.

The Environment and Public Works Committee deadlocked on a 9-9 vote on Bush's "clear skies" bill, a name that Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., described as "akin to calling Frankenstein Tom Cruise."

The tie vote came after weeks of fruitless negotiation to get a bare majority required to recommend the bill to the full Senate. The committee vote doesn't preclude GOP leaders from scheduling the bill for floor action anyway, but they would have fewer parliamentary tactics available to pass it over Democratic objections.

Committee members from both parties, however, held out hope that a compromise could still be reached later this year, perhaps through an amendment to another of Bush's legislative priorities, a comprehensive energy bill.

Visiting Ohio, Bush renewed his call for Congress to act on the bill, saying it will "protect the environment and the economy." Not mentioning the Senate committee vote, he told an audience in Columbus it would "allow Ohio counties to meet strict environmental standards while keeping your commitment to coal."

Ohio utilities are prominent users of coal to generate electricity.

Despite Wednesday's vote, the Bush administration planned on Thursday to do by regulation some of what Bush still wants Congress to do by law. The Environmental Protection Agency will release a new regulation to cut smog-forming nitrogen oxides and acid rain-causing sulfur dioxide from coal-burning power plants, most of them east of the Mississippi River. That measure is intended to curtail pollution that often travels long distances across state lines.

Bush had proposed amending the law to reduce nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury in the air by letting smokestack industries trade pollution rights among themselves within overall caps set by the government. Opponents wanted a plan that also would address global warming by regulating carbon dioxide emissions, and said Bush's changes would weaken the 1970 Clean Air Act, last amended in 1990.

"It's a shame that the U.S. Congress is the last bastion of denial on climate change," said Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., who joined with Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., and seven Democrats in defeating the bill in committee.

 
Environmentalists and public health advocates praised the committee's vote.

"Timely, strong enforcement of the current Clean Air Act will provide greater pollution reductions sooner than the pro-industry approach rejected by Congress," said John L. Kirkwood, president of the American Lung Association.

The utility industry's Edison Electric Institute said it would continue to fight for the bill.

"The rationale behind this legislation is simple," EEI President Thomas R. Kuhn said. "Sensible multi-emission legislation can reduce power plant emissions faster, with greater certainty, and more cost-effectively than current programs."

Inhofe had shortened by two years the 2018 deadline Bush proposed for reducing the three pollutants by 70 percent, and added $650 million to subsidize utilities for installing carbon-control equipment.

That still couldn't sway Democrats like Max Baucus of Montana, which has the nation's largest coal reserves. He suggested starting from scratch for a compromise later this year, since "sometimes things have to be torn apart before they can be put back together again."

Among the most impassioned about the defeat were Sens. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and Thomas Carper, D-Del., who led most of the committee's negotiations.

Voinovich said the bill was about nothing less than keeping coal "our most abundant and cheapest energy source part of our energy future."

Carper angrily described the White House and EPA as having stonewalled the bill's opponents when they requested more information. "That's got to end," he said.

http://epw.senate.gov Senate Environment Committee:

http://www.epa.gov Environmental Protection Agency:

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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