WASHINGTON — President Bush indicated Thursday that he plans a hard-line approach on new clean-air standards that will "significantly improve" the quality of life of all North Americans.
Bush, who will unveil his clean-air package Monday, met with industry leaders, who said they pleaded against coming up with standards that are too tough to be affordable.
"We urged him to make certain that, when the dust settles on clean air, that we have a healthy economy left," said William D. Fay, administrator of the Clean Air Working Group, a business coalition.
"We'll have to wait until Monday to see whether or not the point got through," Fay said after he and other industry officials met with Bush at the White House.
Readiness to Act Described
Later, at a session with environmental leaders, Bush indicated that he is ready to move ahead with strong measures, participants said.
"He said that he agreed this is a freight train coming down the track," said George Frampton, president of the Wilderness Society. "He felt that he strongly, personally wanted to be out front on this."
Ruth Caplan, executive director of Environmental Action, said: "We are calling on him to again do a NATO. It is time for him to exercise leadership and call for strong measures to protect the health of the American people." She was referring to Bush's dramatic call last month for unilateral troop cuts in Europe.
Caplan said Bush was given information on air quality in Kennebunkport, Me., where he has a vacation home. "He was shocked to know that last summer there were many days in which there were serious health problems from ozone smog," she said.
Mind Not Entirely Made Up
White House aides, as well as participants at the industry and environmental meetings, insisted that Bush has not made up his mind on many aspects of the package, the first major overhaul of the 1970 Clean Air Act in 12 years.
But Administration aides said Bush had already decided on many key parts of the legislation--including tough new standards for cleaning up smokestack emissions that cause acid rain, changes that would prove costly to industry.
The President also has decided on rigid new standards to prevent chemical contamination of the air.
These standards will extend to hundreds of categories of businesses, ranging from paint factories to bakeries, the sources said.
Such suggestions prompted praise from congressional Democrats even before Bush submitted his proposal. "He has wholly reversed the position of the Reagan Administration on this subject," Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Me.) said.
Power plants and other industries that burn coal in the Midwest, many of which disperse their pollutants through tall smokestacks without technological controls, will be a key target of Bush's clean-air attack, the sources said.