Gop Vows Moderation on Environmental Issues

Article excerpt

You may have to wait awhile to see a Republican-led Congress wage another broad, "off-the-wall" offensive at pollution control laws, says Sen. Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo.

After Senate leaders were chosen Tuesday for the new Congress, Bond joined other Republicans in proclaiming the need for a moderate course rather than the far-reaching proposals that spelled trouble for some Republicans in the elections. He called House legislation last year "off-the-wall" and "disastrous" but noted that it had been blocked in the Senate.

"I was frustrated that what some Republicans did in the House was used, I think, very effectively by the White House and supporters of the Democratic Party to claim that this was an anti-environmental effort by the Republicans," Bond said. Bond will be a key player in the new Congress on environmental issues. He was reappointed Tuesday to the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee. He is expected to lead the appropriations panel, which scrutinizes the Environmental Protection Agency's budget. Today, Bond is likely to be reappointed chairman of the Small Business Committee, which examines effects of government regulations. As if to show his moderate approach, Bond asserted that scientific studies suggested air quality problems that may need new remedies. But Bond said he and others in Congress would examine those studies to see whether the EPA's new standards were warranted. "I know there is a great concern by local governments; I've already heard from mayors and others who are very much concerned," Bond said, speaking of emission tests and pollution control practices that will be required. The EPA's new rules, proposed last week, would lower limits of ozone smog permitted in the air and set a new rule for microscopic impurities from tailpipes and power plants. The rules would take effect in June but not become enforceable until 2000. The St. Louis area - which already does not comply with EPA rules - would be forced to make difficult choices about emission testing and other new controls that add up to cleaner air. The looming clean-air fight shattered the quiet surrounding environmental issues in the aftermath of the election campaigns. Despite Bond's wait-and-see tone, the Republican national chairman, Haley Barbour, this week called the EPA plan "a gigantic expansion of the reach, cost and burden of government on our economy and our lives. . . . Thus far, it looks as if `Big Government Bill Clinton' is at the helm." Until Barbour's remarks, Republican had signaled a moderate course in the new Congress rather than the aggressive approach of two years ago. After the GOP took control of the Senate and House last year, House Republicans tried to cut the EPA budget while threatening to gut the Endangered Species Act and other protective laws. Those drives fell short because of wary senators and the conclusion by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. …