THE White House is divided on the president's environmental policies, especially the Clean Air Act of 1990. On one side is William Reilly of the EPA who wants to enforce strict regulations regarding our air and water. On the other side is Vice President Dan Quayle, representing the business community, who wants to abolish the regulations and let industry police itself. Guess who is going to win?
I thought I had my mind made up on the issue until I talked to Dolph Sand, the lobby ist for the Live and Let Live Anti-Environment Protection Association.
When I saw him in his office he was faxing voting instructions to friendly congressmen and senators.
"My message is that if America wants to have clean water and clean air, the public has to stop bugging industry all the time."
"It sounds like a good policy on paper, but the people need more assurance that they won't die from pollution."
"Industry is the only one who knows what it is polluting and how much," Dolph explained. "Therefore we are the only people in a position to say enough is enough."
"Suppose you never say it?" I asked.
"The administration has much more faith in our factories and plants than you do. Let me give you an example of how things would operate if you abolished the onerous regulations imposed by the naysayers and the do-gooders. Suppose a large factory is emitting residue in the air from its smokestacks which could be poisoning Disney World. Under EPA regulations, the plant would be fined and expensive scrubbers installed -- the cost of which would eventually be charged to the consumer. It's no way to run a business.
"Now, if industry was in charge, here's how we would handle it. One of our CEOs, let's call him Doodles, will go over and have lunch with Stucky. He will say, 'Oh, by the way, Stucky, I noticed some funny black stuff belching out of your chimneys which smelled awful.'
"Stucky will respond, 'That's nice of you to tell me because I was wondering if that smell had something to do with the plastics we're making or with my dog dying. I've been wanting to fix the furnace for a long while, but every time I suggest it my board says that it will have to come out of my bonus. Did you notice anything that might indicate the smoke was hurting the environment?'
" 'I only noticed that there were no birds in the area and there are a lot of dead squirrels on the ground,' Doodles tells him.
" 'I don't think they died from the smokestacks. My environmental experts tell me that the squirrels have been dying from drinking the water around the plant.'
" 'You mean that you have an air pollution and a water pollution problem at the same time?'
" 'Doesn't everybody? I tell you what I'm going to do. If the EPA makes a big deal of it I'll take them to court for years -- but if they don't bug me I'll do something about the situation.'
" 'That's what Dan Quayle wants to hear.' "
I asked Dolph if it was hard to sell his handling of pollution to the politicians? He replied, "Not during an election year."
Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.