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Bush proposes strong air-cleaning measures.

Bush proposes strong air-cleaning measures

Nearly half the U.S. population lives in areas with unhealthy air, according to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William K. Reilly. This week, President Bush unveiled new legislation to eliminate much of the air pollution responsible. Under a complex proposal he outlined at a press briefing, acid rain precursors would be cut in half over the next 10 years, pollutants responsible for smog-ozone would drop 40 percent within 20 years, and 75 to 90 percent of the toxicity -- especially carcinogenicity -- in urban air could be eliminated by the year 2000.

"We're expecting that the acid rain provisions alone ... will cost just under $4 billion a year," Reilly says. The ozone limits will probably cost $8 billion to $12 billion per year, the carcinogenic-pollution controls another $2 billion. Though expensive, the investments are urgently needed to protect the nation's health and ecology, Reilly says.

In general, the new bill "contains the right elements," says S. William Becker, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators. Moreover, he says, "one cannot overestimate how important it is for a U.S. President to back clean-air legislation." Because President Reagan would not acknowledge that the Clean Air Act needed fixing, Becker says, "we saw eight years of stalemate."

A cornerstone of the new bill is its acid rain proposals. One targets 207 fossil-fueled power plants in 17 states for tough sulfur dioxide controls. The limits, phased in over 10 years, should help reduce U.S. sulfur dioxide pollution to almost half the 1980 level.

Nitrogen oxides (NO.sub.x.) -- the more recalcitrant precursors of acid rain and smog-ozone -- would not be attacked nearly as vigorously. Bush calls for reducing nitrogen oxides just 10 percent from 20.4 million tons in 1980. Moreover, the new bill would allow large-scale polluters to substitute greater controls on sulfur for lesser controls on nitrogen -- suggesting that actual nitrogen oxide reductions could fall far short of even 10 percent. Ironically, a growing body of research indicates nitrogen controls may offer the most cost-effective approach to limiting urban smog and some acid rain effects (SN: 4/30/88, p.276; 9/17/88, p.180).

Another innovative feature in Bush's new proposal would require phasing in vehicles that use "clean" oxygenated fuels -- such as methanol, ethanol and ethyl- or methyl tertiary butyl ether -- in the nine areas currently showing no hope of quickly meeting the federal smog-ozone standard: Los Angeles, Houston, New York City, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Philadelphia, greater Connecticut, San Diego and Chicago. Eventually, 12 percent of the new vehicles sold in each are -- 1 million annually by 1997 -- would have to run on one of these alternate fuels.

Other new measures would include:

* tailpipe hydrocarbon-emission standards for light-duty trucks equivalent to those now required for cars

* new limits on the offgassing of certain hydrocarbon-based consumer products, such as oil-based paints and solvents

* new EPA authority to control emissions from industrial plants, including some of the smaller facilities previously exempted because of size or individual emission rates

* adoption of "best available technology" to control carcinogenic or toxic industrial air emissions

* mandated vapor-recovery nozzles on gas pumps in areas that exceed the federal ozone standard.

Though the President's bill is ambitious, "it does need to be revised," Becker says. He and others--including National Clean Air Coalition Chairman Richard E. Ayres -- say they hope Congress will insert language to toughen emissions controls on vehicles and give EPA stronger, less discretionary responsibility for regulating carcinogenic pollutants.
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Title Annotation:George Bush
Author:Raloff, J.
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 17, 1989
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