In the world of auto repair, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) was long considered "satan personified," an environmental activist out to break the industry, as one lobbyist put it.

Then last August the industry made a deal with the devil. Forsaking old political ties, the largest industry trade associations agreed to support actively Waxman's proposals for clean air measures. In exchange, he helped to revamp auto warranty laws that were driving billions of dollars in business away from independent garages.

It was typical of the kind of deals that make Congress go round.

But in the context of clean air, it broke a mold. For the first time, a major industry had defected from the powerful alliance of business and political interests dedicated for years to the defeat of such legislation.

And it started a trend. No longer confident of blocking legislation, industries split off to gain an advantage or limit the damage. In pursuit of self-interest, industry clashed with industry. The boldest even fashioned alliances with old environmental adversaries. In the end, the willingness of corporate concerns to shift strategy distinguished the winners from the losers of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

It also eased passage of the first clean air bill in 13 years.

With business interests going in separate directions, their congressional sponsors -- once a political firewall blocking legislation -- were suddenly forced to compromise to get the best deals for their industrial concerns. "We had an opportunity to form new coalitions that strengthened us in committee and on the floor," said Waxman, a principal architect of the legislation.

That Waxman was able to deal with business interests was news. The watchword of the 1980s was "non-engagement," observed by a monolithic bloc of polluters -- oil, auto, steel, utility, chemical and coal, among them -- coordinated more recently by the Clean Air Working Group. Protected by officials in the right places -- President Ronald Reagan, former Senate majority leader Robert W. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) -- they resisted all efforts to compromise or undermine a common interest in stopping legislation.

The political stranglehold was broken when Byrd was replaced in late 1988 by Sen. George J. Mitchell (D-Maine), a longtime clean air advocate, and President Bush sponsored his own clean air bill in July 1989.

Not only did it lose key allies such as Reagan and Byrd, but industry also confronted an administration bill calculated to split business interests by favoring some over others.

The purpose was to encourage winning coalitions: Auto makers got off lighter than oil companies in the war against smog to land the support of Dingell, powerful chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a car industry champion from Detroit; midwestern utilities were targeted for the toughest acid rain controls in the hope of rallying lawmakers from the West and Northeast behind the administration.

"The bill instantly divided people into the haves and have-nots," said utility lobbyist David Blee. "It was a clever political calculation. By not immersing everyone in the costs equally, it brought a lot of people over to their side and isolated opponents."

For every industry, the message was clear, Blee said: "It was going to be a coldy competitive process, and you really were going to have to scrap for everything you could get."

The climate of uncertainty provided an opening for Waxman, the House's environmental leader, who saw an opportunity to shake Dingell's control. By forging ties with certain industries, he hoped to gain the support of their House sponsors, isolating Dingell and forcing him to negotiate clean air agreements.

Several industries were willing to play, despite their suspicion of Waxman and fear of alienating Dingell, whose committee has power over nearly all phases of industry.

The independent auto repair industry had been in Dingell's orbit, working with the car industry to fight changes in the law. Repair shops were primarily opposed to efforts to expand the warranty on auto antipollution devices from five years or 50,000 miles in the old law to 10 years or 10,000 miles.

Warranties encourage car owners to go back to auto dealers for repairs on antipollution devices, and while there, to get other work done. Independent repair garages were losing business worth up to $5 billion a year, according to industry estimates.

Dingell initially opposed the warranty extension but also rejected demands by the independents to roll back the coverage.

Waxman originally favored doubling the time of warranties but spotted a potential ally and called a meeting with trade association leaders last August. He agreed on a compromise: an extension to eight years or 80,000 miles for the three most costly antipollution devices, but a rollback to two years or 24,000 miles for dozens of other emissions control parts.

In exchange, four large trade groups agreed to support Waxman's entire package of clean air reforms and commit their sizeable grass-roots memberships to the cause.

"Some auto people didn't even want to talk to Waxman, he was the enemy," said Don Randall, a lobbyist for the Automotive Service Association. "Dingell was the main man for everything related to the auto. Everybody was scared to death that he would get mad, remain permanently angry and get you on other items later on. But there was no choice. Dingell wasn't making any concessions. Waxman said, 'Come over, I'm going to give you a competitive situation in two years.' "

The Waxman deal split the industry, with other major auto repair trade associations -- representing interests from service stations to specialty parts dealers -- remaining loyal to Dingell. He was pressured to propose a similar rollback, but Waxman's pact ended up as law, handing a major victory to the independent shops.

Another industry that benefited from an alliance with Waxman was ethanol. There was a common interest in the alcohol distilled from grain among companies that produce it, farmers who grow the raw materials and environmentalists who want it used as a less polluting blend in gasoline. But the common interest was never energized until last spring, when Dingell refused to support a major role for the fuel.

Still the partnership with Waxman was uneasy at first. Farmers and environmentalists regularly clash over pesticides, land use and agricultural runoff. Moreover, most ethanol supporters in the House were Dingell stalwarts.

"It was a prickly dance at the start," said Eric Vaughn, an ethanol lobbyist.

The marriage of environmental and farm interests was finally consummated in March and produced major gains for both sides. Their accord won wide support in the House, so wide that Dingell was forced to accept it. A slightly altered version became law.

The requirement for sales of oxygenated fuels in 44 cities with excessive levels of carbon monoxide and 9 cities with excessive levels of smog is expected to increase sales of ethanol from today's 900 million gallons a year to 3.4 billion gallons in the year 2000. Ethanol increases the oxygen content of gasoline, burning off more of the pollutants before they can be emitted into the air.

"If we hadn't sided with Waxman early on," said Vaughn, "we wouldn't have gotten anything out of the House."

Not every industry seized the opportunity to turn clean air into profit. Except for the Texas Land Office and Southern California Gas Co., natural gas interests did not fight for compressed natural gas as a fuel for the fleets of cars that fill up at a central place. Had one proposal passed, the industry could have boosted natural gas sales by $4 billion to $6 billion a year, according to congressional estimates.

Dingell opposed such measures because of the changes they would necessitate in auto design.

"It was clear to a lot of people in Washington that the gas industry was not willing to lobby for what was in its best self-interest," said a gas lobbyist. "The strategy has always been to go along with the chairman {Dingell} and you'll get taken care of in the end."

Other industries participated in the process for the first time as a form of damage control, including some midwestern utilities targeted for the toughest acid rain controls.

While major power companies clung to hopes of legislative deadlock, Illinois and Indiana utilities broke away and formed a unique coalition with midwestern consumer groups, coal companies, the United Mine Workers and environmentalists to search for legislative solutions acceptable to the disparate groups.

"We shared the view that there was going to be legislation and the president would sign it," said Blee, who lobbies for Illinois Power and helped establish the Coalition for Acid Rain Equity. "We wanted to be sitting at the table."

The coalition worked closely with midwestern lawmakers to craft a bill that would curb acid rain but at far lower costs to regional utilities than the Bush measure. Some of the concessions were signed into law.

"Once a bill was moving with the premise we were going to reduce pollution, the question was who was going to have to carry the burden of cleanup," said Waxman. "The situation became more fluid. We would insist on making environmental gains, and industry could support us out of self-interest. It was a unique time."