Federal and private pollution fighters reacted angrily yesterday to Robert S. Strauss' announcement that environmental regulations will be a target of the White House war on inflation.
A coalition, led by the Environmental Defense Fund, said it will seek a meeting with Strauss and demand that he get specific.
"He'll be dealing with a cage of wildcats if he meets with us," said Robert J Rauch, a staff attorney with the EDF.
Others were not quite as expressive, but environmental spokesman reacted similarly to comments by Strauss that he would pressure the Environmental Protection Agency for help in his fight on inflation.
Strauss, special counsel on inflation for President Carter, said two days ago that he was sure EPA regulation and enforcement were adding to production costs and fueling inflation.
Barbara Blum, EPA depty administrator, said Strauss had not met with EPA chief Douglas Costle, as reported, in The Washington Post yesterday, although the two had talked by telephone last week.
Speaking for Costle, who was out of the city yesterday, Blum said that in virtually every instance, it is believed that environmental protection spending is not inflationary.
Blum cited recent independent studies by private consultants and the National Academy of Sciences, which found that the benefits of environmental protection regulations exceed their cost.
She also said that EPA is reviewing many of its regulations - and revising them where necessary - to assure that they are "cost effective."
Strauss' remarks drew a strong response from Charles Warren, chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, the president's chief environmental advisory body.
"It is a mistaken order of priorities if this requires his [Strauss] attention as the counselor on inflation," Warren said.
"I don't think it can be denied that environmental regulation contributes to the cost of products . . . But we believe, and so does Congress, that the benefits of those programs that are implemented far surpass the cost features," Warren added.
The CEQ chairman noted that Congress only recently had completed "midcourse corrections" of air and water pollution control programs. For Strauss to suggest a new review, he said "is probably untimely."
Sen. Jennings Randolph (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works COmmittee which oversees the air and water laws, said he felt it improper for Strauss to single out any regulatory program as inflationary.
"I don't think you should target on any of them. There is no use in singling something out and hitting it over the head," Randolph said. "I think we're going to have to attack inflation across a broad spectrum. It can't be confined to any one type of legislation."
EDF executive director Arlie Schardt yesterday sent letters to Carter, Strauss and Costle, protesting the targeting of environmental regulation and challenging Strauss to provide envidence that it is a prime cause of inflation.
Schardt asked the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] to muzzle Strauss "until such [WORD ILLEGIBLE] as he produces evidence of such impact."
At the Environmental Policy Center, lobbying group, director Louise Dunlan said Strauss statements "reflect an ignorance and intellectual dishonesty on his part . . . on the necessary role that good enviromental policies play in generating jobs, protecting communities and public health."
"The absence of good regulations means that somebody pays - probably the taxpayer in the form of other public programs to compensate for the failure of industry to internalize all the costs of their goods," she said.
Dunlan said, "It is just incredible that this administration is pushing for natural gas deregulation - which will have an enormous impact on inflation - yet it is picking on enviromental standards that generate jobs . . . But it's not surprising that Strauss would say something like this - some of his former law clients included oil companies."