George Bush photo

Letter to Congressional Leaders on Legislation to Amend Clean Air Act

September 26, 1990


It has now been more than a year since I sent to Congress legislation to reauthorize and strengthen the Clean Air Act. As you know, my proposal would have permanently reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by 10 million tons below 1980 levels, cut smog-causing emissions by over 40%, brought virtually all of the 100 cities now in violation of our air quality standards into attainment with those standards by the year 2000, and cut by more than three-quarters the amount of toxic emissions into America's air.

As the current session of Congress draws to a close, I am concerned that the House-Senate conference committee still has not completed its work and that its direction has strayed significantly from that of my proposal and of the bipartisan Administration-Senate agreement announced in March of this year. In short, I fear that the slow progress and apparent course of the conference committee may jeopardize enactment of this critically important legislation.

It is particularly important that any bill presented to me for signature abide by certain principles:

It must not contain extraneous and costly provisions that are unrelated to clean air and set highly adverse precedents for other environmental legislation;

It must achieve, at a minimum, the environmental benefits I have set forth in my bill, and it must do so in an efficient manner, that is, for the lowest possible cost to American jobs, consumers, and businesses; and

It must be capable of being administered in a straightforward and sensible manner, one that minimizes the kind of time-consuming litigation that could prevent the law from being implemented on schedule.

There are several pending features of both bills which are not in accord with these principles. The conference committee must act quickly to produce a bill that is environmentally strong and economically sound. All Americans deserve clean air, but they also deserve the good jobs and rising living standards that only a competitive economy can provide. Unless the committee produces such a bill, Congress will not have time to make any necessary adjustments, and the substantial progress made in the past 21 months will be undone.

To help avoid that outcome, I have instructed my staff to make available a comprehensive proposal to the conference committee to help break the logjam that has once again appeared. This comprehensive proposal will achieve the same environmental benefits as either the House or Senate bills -- and in fact it draws on the best features of each proposal. By employing the most cost-effective approaches contained in each, and avoiding those provisions which add gratuitous burdens, this compromise will achieve those benefits at a cost to America's economy of several billion dollars per year less than either bill.

It has been 13 years since the Clean Air Act was reauthorized. By developing a comprehensive proposal and reaching an historic agreement with you and your colleagues, I have worked actively to break the legislative stalemate which has precluded earlier action on clean air. I offer the enclosed comprehensive proposal to help finish the job before time runs out in the current session of Congress.

It would be a terrible shame, and a disservice to the American people, if the prospects for cleaner air were to be scuttled because of a continuing impasse in the conference, or because of the addition by the conference of restrictive and inefficient provisions that saddle the American people with additional costs but yield no additional environmental benefits.


George Bush

Note: Identical letters were sent to Senators Max Baucus and John H. Chafee and Representatives John D. Dingell and Norman F. Lent.

Comprehensive Proposal

Acid Rain

Senate acid rain provisions.

Modify House and Senate provisions on WEPCO (and related modification provisions in other titles) to parallel Administration proposal.

The Senate acid rain provisions will provide utilities and independent power producers with greater certainty and can be administered in a clear and efficient manner. The Senate acid rain provisions do not include extraneous provisions, such as the restrictions on clean coal technology funding found in the House bill. The administration's proposed solution to WEPCO addresses the serious uncertainties created by the WEPCO decision in a balanced manner that protects the operation of the allowance trading program.

Air Toxics

House provisions on MACT and utility emissions.

Senate provisions on residual risk, the NAS study, voluntary risk reduction, and NRC regulation.

The House provisions requiring the maximum achievable control technology coupled with the Senate provisions on residual risk and voluntary risk reduction will provide for a 75- to 90-percent reduction in air toxics exposure in a cost-effective manner. The Senate National Academy of Sciences study and the House provision on toxic emissions from utility plants will allow for scientifically sound regulatory decisions that are based on the public health risks posed by those emissions.


Senate title I provisions.

The Senate provisions on stationary source controls would not saddle smaller businesses with excessive controls and would provide emissions reductions in a cost-effective and administratively superior way. The Senate title I does not include extraneous and potentially costly provisions, such as the Wise amendment on labor protection which is unacceptable.

Mobile Sources

House Tier I and Tier II tailpipe standards.

Senate approach to mobile source toxics.

The House provisions for Tier I and Tier II standards for tailpipe emissions, modified by substituting the Senate study on mobile source toxics, ensure progress in reducing tailpipe emissions in a rational way that reflects cost, need, and feasibility of controls.


Modified Senate reformulated gasoline program to include: (1) a 15 percent reduction in VOC and toxic emissions, as defined in the Senate bill; (2) a minimum 2 percent oxygenate requirement; and (3) a general equivalency program starting in 1993, with full phase-in by 1995.

Modified House oxygenated fuels program in all 44 CO nonattainment areas with a 2.7 percent oxygenate requirement; and new provisions to permit opt-out or opt-down from the 2.7 percent requirement based on modeling attainment demonstrations.

Senate nine city alternative fuels program with a composite standard of .75 gpm in 1995 and .66 gpm in 2000. States would have the flexibility to opt-in to the nine city program or opt-up to the California program.

This combination of Senate and House provisions builds upon the administration's clean fuels program by achieving environmental benefits in a cost effective way. It will allow for the phase-in of the most promising low-emitting fuels in a way that avoids market dislocations and supply problems.

Permits and Enforcement

The permit program as recently agreed to by the conferees, striking the permit requirements in all other titles.

Maintain core of Senate enforcement provisions with House citizen suit provisions and safe harbor for firms who initially discover potential violations while conducting internal audits.

The permit provisions found in the air toxics, nonattainment, and acid rain titles of the Senate bill are unnecessary and potentially conflicting.


The CFC provisions as agreed to by the conferees.

George Bush, Letter to Congressional Leaders on Legislation to Amend Clean Air Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under



Simple Search of Our Archives