The Bush administration plans to siphon off $2.45 billion from profits of companies making ozone-depleting chemicals over the next three years, a proposal that has infuriated the industry and may spark a fight in Congress.
The administration wants the money but doesn't want to call its plan a tax.But that's just what it sounds like to Du Pont, the largest manufacturer of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs.
"They'll be sued. We will challenge it for sure," said company official Tony Vogelsberg.
The target for the revenue raising is windfall profits that chemical firms could earn after an international treaty reduces supplies of chlorofluorocarbons, which destroy the ozone layer and increase risk of skin cancer.
Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee, says the administration has "no specific authority to levy a tax on . . . these commodities" and cautioned against bypassing his committee or ignoring Congress' taxing authority.
Dingell, however, indicated he hasn't formed a final opinion. "I don't have any dogs in the fight at this particular time," he said.
To complicate matters, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management and Budget are at odds over how to collect the money. OMB wants to auction off rights to produce a specific amount of CFCs.