Clinton Endorses Tougher New Air Standards
New environmental standards opposed by mayors, industry
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 25) -- Despite political heat from the nation's mayors, industry leaders and even some of his own advisors, President Bill Clinton today endorsed tougher standards to reduce harmful gas emissions and air pollution.
"I approved some strong new regulations today that will be somewhat controversial. But I think kids should be healthy," Clinton told the audience at a family conference in Nashville, Tenn. The event was hosted by Vice President Al Gore, the White House's front man on the environment.
Included in the new rules will be tighter health standards for smog-causing ozone and soot. Full details will be issued in July by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In deciding whether or not to endorse the new regulations, Clinton has been caught between the EPA, which has pushed for the stricter standards, and big city mayors and industry, who say the move would cost money and jobs.
Clinton defended the move, saying that the new standards can be put into effect in a way that will not hurt the economy. "We think that if we have high standards protecting the environment, but we're flexible on how those standards are implemented and we give adequate time and adequate support for technology and creativity to develop, then we can protect the environment and grow the economy at the same time," the president said.
Clinton's decision to support the new regulations has been long awaited by environmentalists, but there was protracted debate among White House aides.
Industry leaders have been lobbying the Clinton Administration to soften its stance, while the U.S. Conference of Mayors voted at their national convention this week to oppose the EPA plan.
A compromise was struck with the EPA to gain Clinton's endorsement, which EPA Administrator Carol Browner said today during a White House briefing contains only modest changes from the original regulations her agency proposed.
In the end, the new rules will be good for the cities and children, Clinton said. "We're trying extraordinary efforts to give the cities the means they need to clean up their environment and attract the right kind of investment," Clinton said.
Air pollution is anti-education, too, Clinton argued. "Children with asthma don't do very well in school. Children with gripping allergies that they could have avoided if they hadn't had to breathe dirty air don't do as well in school," he said. "So the public health and the environment are important parts of this."
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