Cleaner air

THE next Congress will have to take up the task of amending the Clean Air Act. Competing interests stalled progress this year until the legislative calendar signaled ``time's up.'' The amendments were aimed at three targets: smog (ground-level ozone); acid rain; and toxic chemicals. Everyone with an interest in the amendments seemed ready to blame everyone else for dithering. Nearly all charged a lack of presidential leadership on the issue.

It would have been a plus for this Congress to have passed the amendments, but next year will be propitious as well. Both presidential candidates say they advocate strong acid-rain legislation. A good deal of negotiating has already taken place: Sen. George Mitchell of Maine has both Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia and the United Mine Workers union on record as supporting an acid rain bill.

In mourning the lack of amendments this year, supporters shouldn't undersell the progress they have made.

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