Gore's Influence on Environmental Policy

Article excerpt

Early in his Administration, President Bill Clinton has shown signs that in fashioning environmental policy, he will rely heavily upon the advice of Vice President Al Gore. Since the election, Gore has spearheaded efforts to make the environment one of the Administration's top priorities. At a White House press briefing recently, Gore said the President has "asked me to oversee" the rulemaking process at EPA.

Under advisement from Gore, Clinton promptly kept a campaign promise and abolished the Council on Competitiveness in late January. The council, which was headed by former Vice President Dan Quayle, frequently was criticized for delaying the implementation of regulations and offering business concerns, in Gore's words, "a back door to hotwire the regulatory process."

William Bode, general counsel of the Environmental Business Assn., said he was disappointed to see the council disbanded, but is "cautiously optimistic" that the Office of Management and Budget (OBM) will continue to review proposed regulations and estimate their overall impact on industry.

Another sign of Gore's influence was evident at a Feb. 8 press conference where he and President Clinton announced they were abolishing the Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) and creating the Office on Environmental Policy (OEP), which will be headed by a former Gore aide.

Congress had delegated CEQ the responsibility of providing the nation with a comprehensive view of environmental trends and conditions. While acknowledging CEQ's contributions in the past, Gore said the council has, in recent years, moved further and further to the periphery of policymaking. The new OEP will "bring environmental consideration directly to the White House," he added.

Headed by Kathleen McGinty, and advisor to Gore since 1989, OEP is responsible for coordinating environmental policy within the federal government. Clinton said the office will participate in each of the major policy councils: the National Security Council, the National Economic Council, and the Domestic Policy Council.

The creation of OEP, said Gore, will ensure that environmental considerations will be an integral part of domestic and foreign policy, "not an afterthought." He added that the reorganization will allow all Executive Branch agencies to "speak with one common voice on the environment."

Bode said he hope OEP will help the Administration "grapple with the risk versus cost" debate. That should be its key role, he said.

The Clinton Administration took other actions to put its stamp on the environmental regulatory process. In late January, OMB Director Leon Panetta ordered the retraction of more than 20 environmental rules issued during the final days of the Bush Administration.

The retraction will, according to Thomas Kelly, director, Office of Regulatory Management and Evaluation, EPA, provide the new Administration with an opportunity to review and approve the last rules issued by the Bush Administration Kelly added that he does not expect a long review period.

Chemical Accident Rule Proposed

EPA proposed a list of substances which may be regulated under future accident prevention regulations. The list identifies substances that are "most likely to cause serious adverse effects on public health and the environment in the event of an accidental release," according to EPA.

The list includes commercial explosives, 100 toxic substances, and 62 flammable gases and liquids. Facilities handling these substances in quantities above set thresholds will be required to prepare risk management plans for prevention of chemical accidents. Over 140,500 facilities could be covered by the proposal.

EPA's list is similar to one issued by OSHA in February 1992. The OSHA list, however, requires facilities to identify potential hazards in each phase of the manufacturing process and establish guidelines to prevent chemical releases. …

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