The Environmental Protection Agency is coming under increasing pressure from President Carter's economic advisers and the Department of Energy to [WORD ILLEGIBLE] key air pollution control requirements it has proposed because of their potential inflationary impact.
The pressure on the EPA appears to reflect a growing concern on the part of some Carter administration members that the inflationary effect of federal regulatory efforts is doing more damage to the nation than their environmental impact is doing good.
"There seems to be a different set of priorities coming up with inflation elevated to a much higher status of concern than it was six months ago," a senior EPA official said yesterday.
The President's inflation advisers have also detained issuance of a new Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard to reduce exposure to lung-damaging cotton dust among textile workers, prompting a strong appeal on OSHA's behalf from Labor Secretary Ray Marshall to the President.
OSHA had told a federal court the rule would be issued by yesterday, but the White House advisers decided last week to assess whether the standard was sufficiently inflationary to merit review by Carter. "We have not heard from them as to whether to proceed or not," said an OSHA official late yesterday.
The administration inflation advisers have told EPA regulatory officials that they are dissatisfied with two sets of proposed air pollution control regulations that are expected to have a widespread environmental impact. The regulations, which are scheduled to be released within the next month, implement the controversial Clean Air Act amendments passed last year.
In a letter to EPA Administrator Douglas Costle last weekend, Charles L. Schultze, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, said one of the sets of regulations slated for implementation next week should not be released until what Schultze called "a key issue" is resolved.
Schultze proposed a change in the EPA's proposed "Prevention of Significant Deterioration" regulations to exempt industries emitting less than 100 tons of pollutants annually after pollution control devices are installed. EPA officials said yesterday the change would exempt some of the nation's major polluters from the regulations.
In a separate memo last month Schultze's deputy, William Nordhaus, and Barry Bosworth, head of the Council on Wage and Price Stability, proposed other changes and warned that unless they were made the rules would cost industry "tens of billions of dollars over 10 years."
A second set of proposed EPA clean air regulations has also drawn fire from Schultze and the Energy Department. Those regulations, scheduled to be released late next month, would govern new plant pollution limits and would particularly affect new coal-fired power plants planned in the West.
The Energy Department contends the regulations, called "New Source Performance Standards," require "unnecessary" antipollution devices on low sulfer, Western coal-fired plants. An Energy Department official said yesterday the regulations would require industry to spend from $13 billion to $35 billion for allegedly unneeded pollution devices.
HPA officials predicted yesterday that the decision on the regulations would be made by President Carter. "We're under an obligation to proceed unless Carter orders otherwise," said an EPA official. "We anticipate this fight will end up in front of him."
Issuance of an OSHA cotton dust regulation to curb "brown lung," or byssinosis, a frequently debilitating and sometimes fatal disease affecting 35,000 present or former textile workers, has been delayed for years for one reason or another, including reelection politics during the Nixon administration.
OSHA officials thought they were not covered by the White House anti-inflation review of regulatory actions, so the action came as a surprise, forcing cancellation of scheduled briefings on the rule and prompting protests from textile workers and union leaders.
In his appeal to Carter on OSHA's behalf, Labor Secretary Marshall suggested that inflation fears may stem from the fact that the standard first proposed by the Ford administration in December 1976 would have cost roughly four times the anticipated $200 million annual cost of the current proposal.
The Council on Wage and Price Stability has praised OSHA for reducing the cost of the proposal but said that additional cost-cutting measures might be considered, including modifications emphasizing medical surveillance and protective devices.
A White House spokesmans said yesterday that the administration has no intent "to gut worker safety regulations or environmental rules on the alter of inflation.
"We want to achieve these regulations in the most cost effective manner," he said. "These agencies are taking heat but so are we every time we have to explain why the cost of living went up again."