The proposed Clear Skies Act that faces a Senate committee vote today differs from President Bush's original initiative, which would have eroded current clean-air regulations.
The new version is worse.
The president's proposal two years ago never made it to a committee vote. Emboldened by Republican gains in the November election, though, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced a new version that lets even more polluters off the hook.
As of Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works appeared evenly split on Inhofe's bill. A deadlock would keep the bill from going to the Senate floor unless GOP leaders pulled some rare maneuvers, which isn't expected. The chief question is whether Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), who has favored a more stringent approach to pollution control, will toe the party line to give the bill the votes it needs.
We hope he doesn't. The proposed act has all the flaws of its ancestor, failing to control carbon dioxide emissions, allowing increases in several other types of pollution for years and, according to an Environmental Protection Agency analysis, putting off meaningful reductions in various pollutants for two decades. In some cases, even those reductions are weaker than is reasonable and economically feasible. A National Academy of Sciences report says the proposal would do a worse job of reducing pollution than the existing Clean Air Act does.