The House yesterday passed the first revision of clean air laws in 13 years, sending to the Senate for final passage a package of controls designed to clean up urban smog, acid rain and airborne toxics by the turn of the century.
The 401 to 25 approval of a House-Senate conference report pushed the bill closer to passage after a decade of congressional gridlock caused by the clash of regional and economic interests.
The 748-page bill incorporates traditional regulatory tools, such as tighter standards for automobile emissions to curb smog, with innovative measures. A new system of pollution credits was devised to help dirty utilities pay for cleanup of acid rain emissions and achieve a nationwide emissions cap by the year 2000. A provision requiring industry to limit cancer risks remaining after the installation of technology was a novel part of the section calling for a 90 percent reduction in emissions of airborne toxics by 2003.
The bill, which is expected to pass the Senate and be signed by President Bush, has a cost of $25 billion a year, which consumers will pay in higher prices for new cars, gasoline, electricity and some products.
Despite its price and far-reaching requirements of industry, the measure is not expected to achieve real public health or environmental gains for a decade because of the long grace periods conceded to industry and the extent of the problem.