Environmental Legislation Going Nowhere Fast
By Jeanne Meserve/CNN
WASHINGTON (April 22) -- Don't expect any big strides in environmental protection this year. You can blame politics.
"You need the House, you need the Senate and you need the administration," says John Chafee, chairman of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. "And absent one of them, you're not going to get a heck of a lot done."
With Republicans in charge of the Congress, and a Democrat in the White House, most environmental legislation is stalled.
The Endangered Species Act, six years overdue for reauthorization, is likely to go nowhere this session.
Superfund legislation, which covers the cleanup of toxic waste, is also up for reauthorization, but is paralyzed.
Legislative prospects were so bleak, the administration didn't even bother to introduce the Kyoto global warming treaty for ratification.
Who's to blame for the inaction? It depends, of course, on whom you ask.
"What we see is a Congress who tends to think that the job of public health and environmental protection is not particularly important, that the job in some ways is done and that we don't have to worry about further reducing pollution," says EPA Administrator Carol Browner.
But environmental groups say the administration's own record is mixed. Others are harsher.
"The Clinton Administration has seemed to put more concern on scoring
political points than advancing serious reform," says Jonathan Adler of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
The administration has taken action unilaterally on a couple of environmental fronts. It has imposed new clean air standards governing emissions of soot and smog.
"Every child deserves to grow up with water that is pure to drink, lakes that are safe for swimming, rivers that are teeming with fish," President Bill Clinton has said.
It has put forward a clean water action plan to deal with runoff from city streets and farms. The big question now, will Congress fund it?
The gains, from the environmental point of view, have not been huge, but neither have the losses.
It is a stalemate unlikely to be broken before the next elections, and maybe not then.