A Publication of The Electricity Journal
Volume 8, Number 106 Wednesday, June 4, 1997
The White House could weigh in this week on the controversial plan by the Environmental Protection Agency to set new national ambient air quality standards for ozone and particulates. According to several industry sources, President Clinton has told EPA Administrator Carol Browner--who supports the new standards--and officials in the White House, including the influential National Economic Council--which opposes the plan--to come up with a solution.
Industry officials say they expect that the White House will force significant changes in the EPA proposal of last November, and that Vice President Al Gore, facing a challenge from House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000, will pull the props out from under his former aide Browner. Recently, key Gephardt allies in Congress, including Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), began organizing Democratic opposition to the Browner plan. State and local Democrats have also been bombarding the White House with opposition to EPA's proposal.
The fact that congressional challengers to the EPA plan have managed to rally organized labor to their cause "represents a profound challenge to Gore," says one industry lobbyist. "He needs labor either on his side or neutral when he takes on Gephardt. He can cut the puppet strings on Browner and the enviros have nowhere else to go."
Washington environmentalists are already expressing anxiety about Gore's role in the deliberations over the EPA standards. "The silence from Gore on this one is deafening," Gene Karpinski, of U.S. PIRG, told the Wall Street Journal last week. Karpinski is currently chairing a gathering of leaders of the major environmental groups in Washington, D.C., who meet frequently to coordinate policy and make sure they are all speaking with one voice.
For her part, Browner is holding firm. "While I have not made a final decision, I can tell you that we have not found anything in the public comments, no new science, that causes us to question the science of what we are proposing," she said last week. Browner's focus on electric utility generators as the major target also continues. "It's about large utilities," she told a House hearing last month. Areas now out of compliance on ozone would meet the standards "if they dealt with the utility emissions in their area. That's a fact."
(Utility industry response)