The Environmental Protection Agency has drafted a revision of the Clean Air Act that leaves the law "an empty shell" and in far weaker condition than any interest group has asked it be made, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) charged yesterday.
"This is a blueprint for destruction of our clean air laws," he said.
The draft, which Waxman said he obtaied through "a hole in the administration safety net," would eliminate any requirement that polluted areas show progress toward meeting national air quality standards. Instead, states would be free to judge their own progress under easily extended deadlines in plans automatically presumed to be valid.
The proposal would make enforcement lawsuits optional instead of mandatory. It would abolish so-called "secondary standards" designed to mandatory. It would abolish so-called "secondary standards" designed to protect agriculture and general welfare, leaving such standards to state option, and would eliminate the program to prevent the dirtying of clean air except within national parks. It would raise the limits for automobile exhaust emissions and wipe out the requirement that engine control devices be maintained.
The changes, Waxman said, "would condemn millions of Americans to permanently lie in dirty air."
The National Association of Manufacturers disagreed, saying the draft appeared sound. "I donh't see anything we'd object to yet," said Mark Griffiths, NAM's associate director for the environment.
A spokesman for the Canadian embassy said Ambassador Peter M. Towe had given the State Department "a stiff diplomatic note" saying Canada would be "very concerned" if the draft is the administration position on sulfur dioxide emissions. It would allow additional emissions rather than reducing them as Canada has asked.
Waxman, chairman of the House Energy subcommittee on the environment, released what he said was "draft of the proposal the administration intends to submit [to Congress] at the end of the month." It included 61 pages of legislative language revising the Clean Air Act and a 45-page point-by-point analysis of the changes.
EPA Administration Anne M. Gorsuch, who chairs the administration's Clean Air Act Working Group, had submitted the draft to President Reagan's Cabinet Council on Energy and the Environmental, Waxman said.
At EPA, however, spokesman Byron Nelson said no detailed proposal had yet gone to the Cabinet council, and White House sources confirmed that. Waxman's document is "a staff draft, one of many," Nelson said, but he added that he knew of no other EPA draft done with full legislative language attached.
Douglas Baldwin, chief aide to Interior Secretary James G. Watt, who chairs the Cabinet council on the environment, called the document "a knot in the string" of staff proposals. But he would not comment on whether a final knot has yet been tied.
No administration spokesman would comment on Waxman's charges.
Waxman's subcommittee is gatekeeper for reauthorization of the Clean Air Act, which expires Sept. 30. Waxman said he decided to make the document public in the hope that popular reaction would convince the administration it should be "only a draft discarded with other ill-thoughtout proposals."
The draft does not include some of the more drastic changes that had been rumored, including transfer to the states of the power to set overall clean air standards and authorization of cost-based criteria in setting standards instead of health-based ones as now required.But Waxman said he had reliable information that such proposals had not yet been rejected.
He said he had written President Reagan to warn that if this measure is offered to Congress, it will mean "a furious and acrimonious battle" that would prevent reauthorization of the act this year.
Richard Ayres of the National Clean Air Coalition said the measure would ignor toxic chemical air pollution and would allow industry to emit an additional 5 million tons a year of sulfur dioxide, which the coalition blames for acid rain damaging lakes and crops in the Northeast and Canada. "At every significant point where current legislation requires the government to act, ther draft bill where current legislation requires the government to act, ther draft bill would allow them not to," he said.
On the other side of Congress, Sen. Robert T. Stafford (R-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee which is drafting its own bill, said he would be "very dismayed" if the measure as described to him by a reporter should be the administration's position. As a primary author of the Clean Air Act, Stafford has insisted that all the law needs is fine tuning.