Although President Reagan promised Canada that the U.S. would do something about acid rain, the issue remains deadlocked in Congress where it has been frozen since 1982. It appears unlikely that any action will be taken on the sensitive subject in this election year.
That's unfortunate, because acid rain won't go away or somehow cure itself. There will be costs involved in cleaning up the pollution, but doing nothing also would be expensive.Acid rain, much of it caused by coal-fired power plants in the Midwest, is damanaging forests, lakes, and killing fish in the Northeast United States and eastern Canada. It has become a cause of serious strain in U.S.-Canadian relations.
Two compromise bills dealing with acid rain were introduced in Congress earlier this month, but the political deadlock over the issue remains unchanged.
The bill getting the most attention is a compromise worked out by Gov. Richard F. Celeste of Ohio, the state emitting the most acid-rain pollution, and Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York, the state receiving the most acid rain.
Essentially, it calls for a cut of almost one-half of the annual emissions of sulfur-dioxide and a 25-percent reduction in nitrogen oxides, in the next 10 to 15 years. The plan calls for a $2.5 billion "clean coal technology" program to help private plants cut pollution. Members of Congress fear that the cost of reducing pollution would raise electric bills. The Celeste-Cuomo plan also would set up a $650 million fund to pay half the cost of emission control equipment for utilities.
The money would be raised by making oil companies pay for it--a strange twist of logic. The oil companies would be required to set aside 2 percent of their petroleum imports for the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This would free up $650 million normally used by the government to buy oil for the reserve.
But why should oil companies pay for a pollution problem caused by burning coal?
Acid rain must be dealt with, but Congress should raise the money for a cleanup program openly and squarely on its own merits. Efforts to hide the cost by handing the bill to those not responsible for the problem should be rejected as sneaky and irresponsible.