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House Rejects Industry's Air Pollution Drive

December 04, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The House overwhelmingly rejected Thursday an industry-backed drive to take the tough, controversial issues of air pollution and acid-rain control off the congressional agenda until at least 1989.

In what members called the environmental vote of 1987, majorities in both political parties combined for a 257-162 defeat of an amendment that would have extended the Clean Air Act's compliance deadlines until Aug. 1, 1989.

Instead, by a voice vote the chamber approved an extension of the law's Dec. 31, 1987, deadline for curbing ozone and carbon monoxide pollution until Aug. 31, giving Congress eight months to work on revising the law.

The extension would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing sanctions during this period against any of the 60 or more metropolitan areas and cities that the EPA says will miss the Dec. 31 compliance deadline. The 60 areas include Southern California's South Coast Air Basin, which encompasses all of Orange County and the non-desert portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. San Diego County and some other metropolitan areas in California are also affected.

The Clean Air Act allows the EPA to penalize areas that fail to attain the law's health standards on pollutants. Sanctions include cutting off federal aid for highways and sewers and banning construction of facilities that would add to air pollution.

EPA Administrator Lee M. Thomas has said he is considering construction bans against 12 to 14 cities that the EPA says have made little or no effort to comply with clean air requirements set by Congress in 1977.

The short-term extension amendment pushed by Reps. Silvio O. Conte (R-Mass.) and Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) would prevent imposition of any sanctions before next September. The Senate has not addressed this issue, but leaders of the Senate Environment Committee favor an extension of no more than eight months.

Environmentalists inside and outside Congress said that House rejection of a 19-month extension amendment pushed by Reps. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) and John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) means the House favors escalating the battle against air pollution.

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