Science &Technology in Congress
As the debate over the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed air quality standards intensified, criticism of the stricter standard grew from industry, local governments, and powerful Republicans. The voices of opponents even included Democrats, which divided the party on an issue that had previously split them during similar debates in 1990 . As the number of opponents and proponents grew, the White House became the bellwether for the future of the standard with both sides looking to the Executive Office of the President to speak out. On June 25, President Clinton spoke in favor of EPA's proposed standards, formally endorsing the stringent clean air rules for ozone and particulate matter. Speaking at a conference in Nashville, President Clinton tried to allay fears of economic implosion by stating, "We will find a way to do this in a way that grows the American economy. But we have to keep having a clean environment to have healthy children."
The fight over enacting the new air quality standards will fall to Congress, and critics of the rules are already gathering weapons to continue the battle. A bipartisan group of members of the House Commerce Committee introduced H.R. 1984 to place a moratorium on the establishment of new standards for ozone and fine particulate matter under the Clean Air Act. H.R. 1984, was introduced by Rep. Ron Klink (D-PA), Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and lists 27 cosponsors as of June 26. In addition, the bill would require further scientific evaluation of the adverse health effects of exposure to airborne particulate matter as well as require the EPA to provide state grants to implement air quality monitoring at the local level. The bill would provide the EPA $75 million in authorization for fiscal years 1998 through 2002 to carry out the act.
Majority Chairman of the Commerce Committee, Rep. Thomas Bililey (R-VA) and the Ranking Minority Member, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) have expressed support for their colleagues legislation and plan to push the bill through with mark ups planned for September. Language that reflects the scientific intent of H.R. 1984 also cropped up into the House appropriations bill for the EPA. On July 16 the House passed H.R. 2158, the VA-HUD-IA appropriations bill, which includes appropriations for the EPA. H.R. 2158 includes language that would require $35 million to be transferred to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in order to establish a new research program on air pollution focusing on the effects of particulate matter and ozone on human health. NIEHS is a unit of the National Institutes of Health.
Clinton's decision to endorse the proposed new standards follows his priority given to environmental and children's issues as witnessed in his State of the Union Address and the recent balanced budget agreement. In addition, it shows continued support for the Vice President who has allied himself to numerous environmental causes. Any action taken against the new rules by Democrats in Congress could color them as anti-Administration and anti-environment.