President Carter is expected to ask Congress for a tax on disposal bottles and cans as a way of discouraging the use of one-time containers and the waste of energy that goes into their manufacture.
The President is also expected to ask for a tax on virgin glass and metal consumed in making disposable bottles and cans, as a further means of discouraging their use. Along the same lines, he is said to be considering a tax reduction for containers manufactures who use recycled materials.
White House sources said these proposals will be included in Carter's environmental message to the nation. It is scheduled to be delivered Thursday but may be postponed, even though environmental aides worked Saturday and Sunday to get it ready in time.
Aides say the disposable container taxes are almost sure to be in the President's message while other proposals are still being discussed. At least three drafts of the messafe have been written, with the possibility of at least three more before a final draft reaches the Oval Office.
"The President hasn't seen it, Cabinet officers haven't seen it and even sub-Cabinet officers haven't seen it," a source on the White House Domestic Council said yesterday. "We hate to have the environmental message coming out close to the energy message (due April 20), but we may have no choice but to delay the environmental message until sometime next week."
One reason for the delay is that proposals included in early drafts have been either removed or written to reflect more realistic goals. Early drafts have also been broadened in the last two weeks to make the message more balanced.
Besides taxing disposable containers, Carter is likely in his environmental message to voice strong support for expanding the existing jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers over national wetlands.
This would mean that anybody wanting to dredge and fill any U.S. waterway would have to apply to the corps for a permit. Opposition to this has risen within the government. The Agriculture Department is understood to support farmers along the Mississippi Delta who want to fill in wetlands to turn them into working farms. The Federal Energy Administration wants to pump oil for strategic reserves into salt domes along the Gulf of Mexico, a move it fears might suffer indefinite delays if subjected to a permit process.
White House sources say that Carter will also voice this support for tough auto exhaust controls but that there is some doubt about whether he will say anything in his environmental message about strengthening the existing Clean Air Act.
Sources said that the top-level staff at the Environmental Protection Agency is hard at work preparing a stand on the air law but that is far from finished and won't be included in the environmental message unless it is.
An early draft of the message put the President on record for a strong Clean Air Act, with no weakening of the controversial clause that calls for no degradation of the air in parts of the country where it is clean.
The early draft also voiced strong support for the provision that says no factory or power plant may burn a polluting fuel unless its industrial neighbors agree to burn less polluting fuels to maintain air quality.
"We are trying to speed up the process to make some impact on the clean air legislation soon to come out of Congress," one White House source said, "but we might be too late to get it in the message,"
Nowhere near resolution in time for the environmental message is a proposal in an early draft that calls for a five-year moratorium on the strip-mining of coal fields located on farmlands. The feeling right now in the White House is to delay this proposal indefinitely, at least partly because the farmland coal won't be mined anyway in the next five years.