Hopes of rewriting the Clean Air Act this year has all but evaporated in the wake of controversy over a leaked draft of the Reagan administration proposal, according to Sen. Robert T. Stafford (R-Vt.), chairman of the Environmental and Public Works Committee.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House health and environment subcommittee, released the draft last week and denounced it as "a blueprint for destruction of our clean air laws." In an interview, Stafford said he was "fairly well in agreement with Waxman's statement" about the draft.
"I hope that the final proposal sent to Congress is much less drastic than this one," Stafford said. "I just can't go along with the general impact of it."
Stafford and Waxman agreed that the draft, a working paper from the Environmental Protection Agency complete with 61 pages of legislative language, went far beyond the "fine tuning" they have been seeking in the 1970 law. Instead, the measure would abolish secondary air pollution control standards, make enforcement lawsuits optional, and eliminate the requirement that dirty areas show progress toward meeting national standards.
Environmental groups vowed to rouse major public opposition if the final administration proposal resembles the draft, and such opposition could keep the measure off the Senate floor this year, Stafford said. Senate hearings and the draft of an environment committee bill will barely be completed by the time Congress takes its August recess.
Stafford noted that Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) has said he wants to focus on budget and tax matters during the fall session and does not want to bring up any major controversy.
"I'll ask him if we can handle it this fall, but I don't know what he will say," Stafford said. He added that House hearings are well behind the Senate pace and are likely to stretch into the fall. House committees "will have to move a lot faster than they are now" if a draft is to emerge by the end of the year, Stafford said.
Sources in the administration and at EPA indicated that the final proposal is not likely to please either Waxman or Stafford. "I didn't think the draft was all that severe," said Jim Tozzi, deputy administrator for regulatory affairs at the Office of Management and Budget. "I'm surprised at Stafford's reaction.
Stafford said he would like to have the House and Senate Versions of the Clean Air Act rewrite emerge from committee at about the same time. "If I think I can pass a fairly good bill over here, I don't intend to make it a target for everyone to shoot at all next year," he said.