States zero in on acid rain problem

Federal review of the acid rain pollution problem is nearing completion and the Reagan administration's policy for coming to grips with it can be expected by late September.

Such assurances were given the nation's governors by William D. Ruckelshaus, administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

While declining to speculate on either the extent or direction of coming recommendations, he made it clear the question will be addressed forthrightly.

Mr. Ruckelshaus's promise, made at the annual meeting of the National Governors' Association here, headed off a planned move by some state chief executives to push for a stronger position of their organization on the question. At an earlier conference, the NGA adopted a resolution calling for federal funding of whatever costs might be involved to control the environmental problem, which is particularly critical to the Northeast.

Instead of demanding an immediate 50 percent reduction of sulfur dioxide emissions, the main cause of acid rain, as some environmentalists within the NGA had favored, the governors voted to set up a special task force to draft legislation to present to Congress by early next year.

The study, suggested by Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, would pinpoint the amount, types, and geographic direction of the pollution. Also considered would be ways to structure, administer, and fund a program to control acid rain.

Special attention will be given to avoiding economic disruption and job loss in areas that produce high-sulfur coal as well as preventing adverse impacts on economic growth in states affected by acid rain.

The governors also wanted any such acid rain legislation to give maximum flexibility to individual states in designing their control plans and ''to provide opportunities for interstate trading of emission targets.''

Governor Dukakis, in pushing the study idea, told his colleagues that Massachusetts is getting more acid rain than any state in the nation.

''Twenty percent of our lakes are at the critical point. Two of them are dying, and one is already dead,'' he explained. The task force is to make at least preliminary recommendations on the acid rain control matter to the NGA's executive committee at its next meeting in October.

The study move averted an almost certain confrontation between governors from the Northeast and those from coal-producing states, including John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, who is chairman of the NGA's committee on energy and the environment. West Virginia is one of several states with large reserves of coal with a high sulfur content.

In other action, Pennsylvania Gov. Richard L. Thornburgh, chairman of the NGA committee on transportation, urged his colleagues to push for congressional action to allow individual states to decide which roads can be open to tandem trailer trucks. The move is in response to problems caused by passage earlier this year of federal legislation under which roadways were opened to these vehicles. A Connecticut move last spring to ban tandem-trailer trucks within its borders was quashed by a federal court judge.

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