Prospects for a Clean Air Act rewrite this year dimmed further yesterday as the Senate Environment Committee slogged through a stiff argument over just about everything--including another version of the Reagan administration views, which surfaced in a manner not likely to win Democratic converts.
The committee managed to agree that so-called Class One areas of pristine air ought to retain a maximum amount of protection, but the members found no common ground on ways to calculate that protection or what degree of coverage ought to extend to the rest of the country.
Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) got a laugh when he suggested that "an exciting criteria" for new ways to prevent significant deterioration of air quality would require the senators to sign an oath that they understood what they were voting for.
Sen. Robert T. Stafford (R-Vt.), chairman of the committee, got a bigger laugh when he voiced hope that Domenici's Budget Committee would follow suit. It was like that all morning.
The senators apparently gave up on reaching agreement over automobile emissions, which were hastily dropped in an earlier session this week amid storms of impassioned rhetoric. They did not raise the issue again. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) vowed to filibuster any measure similar to one pending in the House that would double the amount of two pollutants allowed from new cars.
Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) demanded to know the status of a 12-page document listing 38 "proposed changes" in the law that was given to his staff last Tuesday by Thomas Jones, a lobbyist for the Environmental Protection Agency. Since the document has no heading, letter of transmittal or other identifying mark, Hart said sarcastically, "I take it this is the view of the president of the United States, the White House and the EPA."
Kathleen Bennett, EPA's assistant administrator for air, noise and radiation, said from the audience that Jones "has officially made available an unofficial document," prompting another roar of laughter from the jampacked audience.
Hart said he had never heard of such a thing. Moynihan then announced that EPA Administrator Anne M. Gorsuch had personally given him the same document Tuesday afternoon. Sen. George Mitchell (D-Maine) said he had received one too, but none of the Republicans had. Hart obligingly passed out copies.
The 38 points included a new proposal for interstate negotiation to control emissions causing acid rain. They otherwise reiterated the administration's desire to include "significant risk" evaluation in setting pollution standards and to eliminate EPA's power to cut off federal aid to states that disobey the law.
David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council, who had Bennett's job under President Carter, and Leslie Dach of the Audubon Society said the administration was "touting the positions of polluting industry up and down the line."