Acid rain bill washes down the Senate drain

A leading Senate supporter of the Clean Air Act, which would have imposed tougher environmental standards on industries that burn coal, is giving up efforts to pass the bill this year. ``The reality is that there will be no action on clear air legislation this year,'' Sen. George Mitchell said Tuesday.

``There is simply not enough time to consider and act upon legislation of this scope and significance,'' the Maine Democrat told the Senate.

Congress is expected to adjourn for the year this week or next.

The bill would require utilities that burn high-sulfur coal to use smokestack scrubbers to cut sulfur dioxide emissions as a way to reduce acid rain that falls primarily in Canada and the US Eastern and Midwestern states.

``There has not been sufficient willingness to compromise,'' said Senator Mitchell, who spent much of 1988 trying to put together a consensus on a clean air bill. ``As a result, we will do nothing.''

Among those he cited as resisting compromise were the environmental lobby and the two behemoths that would be most affected by such legislation: electric utilities and the auto industry.

Senate Democratic leader Robert Byrd of West Virginia has been blocking action on the bill because of the effect it would have on coal mining in his state.

Senators Byrd and Mitchell had reached a compromise over the bill, but this was rejected by many supporters of the measure.

Another opponent, Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R) of Minnesota, said the bill could contribute to the global warming trend, or ``greenhouse effect.''

``While scrubbers can reduce sulfur dioxide emissions, they actually lead to higher emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the principal causes of global warming,'' Senator Boschwitz said in a statement.

Mitchell said he was disappointed the bill would not pass this year, but predicted it would eventually be approved.

The technology exists to control air pollution, he said. ``All we lack is the political will to do so.''

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