A Senate subcommittee yesterday approved a Clean Water Act reauthorization that retains most of the stringent provisions of the current law but gives polluters more time to meet them.
The bill, sent to the Environment and Public Works Committee on a voice vote, delighted environmentalists but left industry lobbyists fuming.
"We are disappointed that they have chosen to ignore virtually every significant issue our group identified," said Ray Durazo of the industry-backed National Environmental Development Association. "It appears that the subcommittee is looking for the path of least resistance, appeasing the environmental community and showing a willingness to make life difficult for industry."
The new compliance deadlines would make polluters meet EPA effluent standards within three years after rules are issued, but no later than July 1, 1987. The deadlines apparently satisified both environmentalists and industry representatives.
The subcommittee dropped a key provision, backed by the Reagan administration and industry, that would have let municipalities "opt out" of requirements that polluted discharges be cleaned up before being sent to a municipal sewage treatment plant.
Industry argued that some municipal treatment plants are capable of handling toxic pollutants and that requiring industry to remove them would be unnecessary and expensive.
But subcommittee Chairman John H. Chafee (R-R.I.), an early supporter of the "opt-out" provision, said that he has decided that it was a bad idea.
When Sen. Steve Symms (R-Idaho) said that he intended to bring the provision up again in full committee, Chafee responded, "Senator, I've made a count, and I don't think you have the votes."
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William D. Ruckelshaus, in recent testimony before the subcommittee, conceded that the proposed waivers would be an administrative headache.
Another potential sticking point was resolved when Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) agreed to accept revised language on discharging treated sewage into the ocean. An aide to Moynihan conceded that the new language does not guarantee that New York will be able to continue discharging treated wastes into the estuaries of the Hudson Bay, but "it gives New York a chance for a waiver."