Clear Skies bill still bottled up in Senate committee

Help — Clear Skies has fallen, and it can’t get up! President Bush’s “Clear Skies” legislation is stuck in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Committee Chair James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has delayed a vote on the bill three times, most recently yesterday, each time realizing that it’s still deadlocked at a 9-9 split. The vote has now been rescheduled for March 9; an Inhofe spokesflack said that it has to happen by March 15 or the bill is likely toast for this year. As the bill’s prospects look more and more, uh, cloudy, the Bushies are gearing up to try to replicate its effects through executive rulemaking and regulatory maneuvers (ah, democracy). Mercury regulations that enviros have been so vocal in criticizing can get done that way, as can the market-based incentives to reduce smog and acid rain-forming emissions, which just about everybody supports. However, without congressional approval, the administration can’t take the controversial step of rolling back new-source review rules that require power plants to install new pollution-control equipment.