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Opening the door to pollution

To help big business make a profit, Senate Republicans, along with a few pro-industry Democrats, are turning full attention to rolling back a long list of federal environmental regulations that mainly protect people.

Orchestrating the onslaught is Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. His draft bill, which would weaken the government's ability to control pollution, is a shameful sellout to a broad coalition of special interests.

Dole's bill essentially rewrites the way that costs, benefits and risks are calculated. It places enormous burdens on federal agencies to prove that certain industrial practices and chemicals harm people and the environment.

Specifically, the bill would gut rules controlling air quality, toxic wastes, food additives, automobile standards and workplace safety. For example, if Dole prevails, the cleanup of hundreds of hazardous waste dumps under Superfund oversight will halt.

Yes, Congress should review unduly burdensome and costly regulations, and useless ones should be scrapped. But why would Republicans and a few key Democrats, such as Louisiana Sen. E. Bennett Johnston, go after the Toxics Release Inventory? Supporters and critics alike acknowledge that the inventory has done more than any other single piece of legislation to reduce the number of pollutants released into the environment each year.

The provision requires industries to submit to the Environmental Protection Agency a list of the chemicals they discharge into the environment. The mere act of having to make their emissions public forces many companies to clean up their act with little cost and effort. Even though the program is an unqualified success, Republicans are siding with industries that want to dismantle it.

President Clinton and other Democrats should do all they can to defeat the GOP's radical and foolish attack on the environment. A dirty environment invariably leads to health and safety problems for people.

Correction

The state Senate district being challenged in the Tampa Bay area is District 21. An editorial in Friday's Times listed another district.

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