Pollution Case Against

Power Company Opens

The nation's biggest power generator broke clean air rules by failing to cut emissions at plants that foul the air in four northeastern states and harm health, a federal lawyer argued yesterday.

The case against American Electric Power, based in Columbus, Ohio, is the biggest among several filed in the waning days of the Clinton administration against utilities in the Midwest and South.

The government and eight states say AEP broke the law when it made major modifications to nine coal-burning plants without installing equipment that would have cut pollution drastically.

The absence of the equipment means the plants continue to spew sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and soot that cause acid rain, smog and haze downwind from Ohio. The government says the pollutants lead to severe respiratory problems, including asthma and bronchitis.

"The plaintiffs expect to establish that AEP's conduct has resulted in environmental harm," government attorney Leslie Bellas said in opening statements in Columbus.

AEP and the utilities have argued that work done on the plants was routine maintenance, which does not trigger the requirements for expensive pollution controls.

Administration Set

For WTO Talks

The Bush administration will carry an olive branch into trade negotiations next week in China, saying the United States is serious about cutting subsidies that help farmers.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, who will depart for Beijing this weekend, said the administration sent a signal this week by asking Congress to kill a cotton subsidy program that was ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization.

"We have been saying all along we're very anxious to get a reform-oriented WTO round," Johanns told reporters yesterday. "We believe that our farmers . . . can compete with anybody in the world."

Farm subsidies are critical in the trade talks. Developing nations want subsidies cut in wealthy countries to allow competition from farmers in poor countries.

President Bush, attending a summit with leaders of other wealthy nations, said Europe and the United States should agree jointly to abolish subsidies through current WTO negotiations.

Pharmaceutical Lobby

Spent $800 Million

The pharmaceutical industry's run of success on Capitol Hill has benefited from the more than $800 million spent since 1998 on lobbyists and political campaigns, a political watchdog group said yesterday.

The trade group representing drugmakers said the money helped patients.

In the past year, the industry hired nearly 1,300 lobbyists, including dozens of former lawmakers and hundreds of people who worked for congressional committees or regulatory agencies.

"It is astonishing to learn that no other interest has spent more money to sway public policy in this time period," said Roberta Baskin, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity. The nonpartisan research group investigated the pharmaceutical industry's spending.

Ken Johnson, senior vice president for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said the report was "clearly biased and one-sided."

-- From News Services