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Published: Thursday, 1/27/2005

Congress compromise urged on clean air bill


WASHINGTON - Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio) warned yesterday that Congress will let environmentalists and businesses "fend for yourselves" if a compromise is not reached soon in the effort to reduce pollution from the nation's power plants.

Two days after he and Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.) reintroduced the Bush administration's Clear Skies proposal to cut down power-plant emissions, Mr. Voinovich expressed frustration at the continuing political impasse on the bill.

Concluding a three-hour Senate clean air subcommittee hearing, Mr. Voinovich addressed the final panel of witnesses - two businessmen who support his bill and an environmentalist who opposes it.

Mr. Voinovich, who chairs the clean air subcommittee, said he and Sen. Thomas Carper (D., Del.), the panel's top Democrat, "are going to struggle to see if we can get something done. We are going to work at it.

"I have spent hours and hours and hours" on the issue, Mr. Voinovich said. "We do something in the next six months, or it's over. .●.●. We'll leave you to fend for yourselves. .●.●. You have to decide if something is better than nothing."

Environmentalists said it would be preferable to have nothing than the Clear Skies bill, which they believe puts economic concerns of power plants and businesses ahead of effects of pollution, including asthma and premature death.

"It seems to be a Trojan horse for broader dismantling of the Clean Air Act," said Conrad Schneider, advocacy director for Clean Air Task Force, an environmental umbrella group. "Our first principle is 'Do no harm' to the Clean Air Act," he added.

Environmentalists also complain that the legislation fails to regulate carbon dioxide, which is blamed for global warming. Republicans, however, say any effort to include carbon dioxide would kill the bill.

The Clear Skies bill is the latest version of legislation that has languished in Congress for years because of strong opposition from Democrats and environmentalists who say it will weaken the Clean Air Act.

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