- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2005


President Bush’s top environmental priority ” giving power plants, factories and refineries more time to reduce their air pollution ” suffered a major setback yesterday when a Republican-controlled committee rejected it in the Senate.

The Environment and Public Works Committee deadlocked on a 9-9 vote on Mr. Bush’s “clear skies” bill.

The tie vote came after weeks of fruitless negotiation to get a bare majority required to recommend the bill to the full Senate. The committee vote doesn’t preclude Republican leaders from scheduling the bill for floor action, but they would have fewer parliamentary tactics available to pass it over Democratic objections.

Committee members from both parties, however, held out hope that a compromise could be reached later this year, perhaps through an amendment to another of Mr. Bush’s legislative priorities, a comprehensive energy bill.

Visiting Ohio, Mr. Bush renewed his call for Congress to act on the bill, saying it will “protect the environment and the economy.” Not mentioning the Senate committee vote, he told an audience in Columbus it would “allow Ohio counties to meet strict environmental standards, while keeping your commitment to coal.”

Ohio utilities are prominent users of coal to generate electricity.

Despite yesterday’s vote, the Bush administration planned today to do, by regulation, some of what the president wants Congress to do by law. The Environmental Protection Agency will release a new regulation to cut smog-forming nitrogen oxides and acid rain-causing sulfur dioxide from coal-burning power plants, most of them east of the Mississippi River. That measure is intended to curtail pollution that often travels long distances across state lines.

Mr. Bush had proposed amending the law to reduce nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury in the air by letting smokestack industries trade pollution rights among themselves within overall caps set by the government.

Opponents wanted a plan that also would address global warming by regulating carbon dioxide emissions, and said Mr. Bush’s changes would weaken the 1970 Clean Air Act, last amended in 1990.

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