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FILE PHOTO FILE PHOTO JOHN SPRAGENS Coalition Pushing to Clean Up Clean Air Act By Betty Brink THERE’S A HOLE in the ozone layer in the atmosphere over Halley Bay in Antarctica, there is acid rain falling in East Texas, and there is enough ozone smog and carbon monoxide poison in our ‘major cities to have reached the crisis point. Yet, the Clean Air Act \(which was passed into law in 1955 but was not given any teeth until 1970 when the EPA was given enforcethe damage from all of the above had the act been vigorously enforced and strengthened over the years. Since 1977 the Clean Air Act has been extended but not reauthorized. That means the law is seriously out of date and needs to be rewritten. Without reauthorization there has been no opportunity to make amendments that would have reflected results of health and environmental research conducted during the past 10 years; or to correct the weaknesses in the act itself, such as the lack of acid rain controls and, less than adequate measures to reduce the use of chlorofluorocarbon gasses. Now a group of 28 national organizations, under the banner of the National Clean Air -Coalition, is preiiaring for a fight in Congress to get the clean air law reauthorized. Leaders expect the vote to come sometime this spring. Ironically, the single incident that moved the Clean Air Coalition to action has come Betty Brink, a Fort Worth writer and activist, is a longtime Observer ,contributor. from the Reagan administration itself. After years of neglecting its regulatory responsibility to enforce and set clean air standards, the Environmental Protection Agency suddenly, in mid-summer, decided to crack down on polluters. The agency announced tough sanctions, including bans on construction aiiid withholding of highway funds, against 70 major urban areas because they had failed repeatedly to meet air quality standards for ozone smog levels and carbon monoxide pollution set by the act in 1977. Subjects of EPA sanctions, including most of Texas’ major urban areas, had all received five-year extensions in 1982, the original target date, because all had claimed difficult control problems. One factor in the lack of compliance was that, in spite of intense environmental lobbying, the act had not been reauthorized. The EPA’s sudden strictness was met with skepticism by supporters of the Clean Air Act. “[EPA’s] recent crackdown in this and other areas represents little more than a bureaucratic effort to raise local political opposition to any federal regulation at all,” editorialized the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which has urged reauthorization of the act and pushed for strong leadership on the issue from Speaker of the House Jim Wright. And, indeed, the EPA succeeded in generating that local opposition. Mayors, chamber of commerce types and county judges from Fort Worth, Dallas, and surrounding counties \(which were all lumped together into a “major urban area” and threatened with a ban on new and scrambled to find ways to get around the sanctions. The same opposition developed in Houston and most other parts of the country. But, at the same time, the National Clean Air Coalition, which includes all of the major environmental groups, the League of Women Voters and the American Lung ,Association, as well as a number of labor unions and the Urban League, began to target key members of Congress to lobby for reauthorization. In Texas, lobbying is led by Lon Burnath of the Sierra Club’s Southern Plains Regional Office in Dallas, joined by Texas chapters of the League of Women Voters, the Audubon Society and the Lung Association. Congressmen targeted are members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by John Dingell, D-Michigan, who has been sitting on reauthorization legislation since 1981. All are Democrats: Ralph Hall of Rockwall; John Bryant, Dallas; and Mickey Leland, Houston. Dingell, representing Detroit, is reluctant to create additional problems for the auto industry if he can avoid it. But Bryant and Leland, both consumer advocates and progressives on other issues, have been silent on this one, in effect siding with Dingell against Henry Waxman, DCalifornia, a strong environmentalist and author of the reauthorization bill. Rep. Ralph Hall Rep. John Bryant Rep. Mickey Leland 14 JANUARY 15, 1988