A caption yesterday in the Business & Finance section erroneously portrayed W. Bowman Cutter, executive associate director of the Office of Management and Budget, as having urged a Senate Budget Committee task force to go slowly on President Carter's proposed $88 billion synthetic fuels program.The caption should have read: " . . . urges no slowdown."
The House Commerce Committee voted yesterday to give President Carter's proposed new Energy Mobilization Board authority to set aside major provisions of the nation's environmental standards and other laws to speed construction of energy projects.
The far-reaching decision came on a 26-16 vote after the panel rejected a barrage of attempts by liberals and Western-state congressmen to restrict the agency's authority merely to waiving procedural timetables.
The action followed a defection from the administration's position by the Energy Department, which lobbied privately for the broadened role. Carter had asked originally only for procedural authority.
The move is considered likely to set off a bitter battle when the mobilization board bill is completed and sent to the House floor. A rival measure reported out by the House Interior Committee avoids any such broad powers.
The action came as, separately, the Senate Finance Committee approved a routine Carter request to exempt heavy oil from his proposed "windfall profits" tax, but lacked any momentum to go on to other provisions.
Finance Committee Chairman Russell B. Long (D-La) had brought up the heavy-oil issue in hopes of stirring the panel into action. The committee is expected to water down substantially a House-passed windfall measure.
At the same time, the nonpartisan Conressional Budget Office urged a Senate Budget Committee task force to go slowly in approving Carter's proposed $88 billion synthetic fuelds program to allow time for planners to learn from their mistakes.
Both the CBO and the Committee for Economic Development, a liberal businessmen's group, cautioned that rushing to build 19 plants in the next three years, as Carter has proposed, might prove too fast for current technology.
The series of actions provided little encouragement for the White House that Congress would change its sentiment about Carter's energy program in the wake of the August recess.
Although congressional leaders still insist the House and Senate will pass some version of most of Carter's proposals, it's unlikely that the measures will go through easily, or very soon.
Jody Powell, the president's press secretary, said yesterday Carter is concerned that his proposals may lose any sense of urgency as vacation season ends and voters lose their memory of this summer's gasoline lines.
He also predicted "a very difficult fight" to get what Carter considers to be an adequate windfall profits tax. The House stiffened Carter's proposal some, but the Senate is considered likely to dilute that.
Carter called in congressional leaders on Wednesday to urge prompt passage of his energy legislation. The White House had hoped the lawmakers would pick up more enthusiasm during their recess, but there were no signs of that.
The vote by the Commerce Committee amounted to a major step-up in the Carter proposal for an Energy Mobilization Board, which the White House had described originally as designed only to deal with procedural roadblocks to energy projects.
As Carter described it, the five-member panel would intervene directly to help speed individual energy projects that were being blocked by federal or state red tape, waiving U.S. and local timetables if needed to do the job.
However the proposal was opposed by environmentalists, who feared the board might use its powers to overturn key Clean Air Act provisions and other environmental laws. Yesterday's action would make such moves possible.
The Commerce Committee did vote to include one safeguard for the Western states: It adopted by voice vote an amendment by Rep. Carlos Moorehead (R-Calif.) that would prohibit the board from waiving water rights in Western states.
The panel later defeated a move by Rep. Robert Eckhardt (D-Tex.) that would have prevented the board from setting aside water-quality requirements, and it rejected other proposals to limit the board's powers.
Rep. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.), who led the liberals' fight to limit the board's powers to procedural issues, called the measure unconstitutional, and complained it would not have passed so easily without Energy Department backing.
However, Rep. Clarence Brown (R-Mich.), who supported the panel's action, pointed out that the waiver authority would apply only on a project-by-project basis, and that Congress would have 60 days to overturn any decision it did not like.
Also contributing to this story were Washington Post staff writers John M. Berry and Art Pine.