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The Planet

'Risk Your Life': Will It Survive?

The fate of the Dole-Johnston "regulatory reform" bill, the flagship of the War on the Environment, was uncertain as The Planet went to press. In a major victory for environmentalists, the sweeping proposal - which would effectively gut the nation's health, safety and environmental laws by subjecting them to draconian "risk assessment" and "cost benefit" analyses - lost its third consecutive vote July 20 in the Senate. Three times majority leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) has tried to round up the necessary votes to end debate on the measure, and three times he has failed.

"I think the die has been cast," said Dole, angry and frustrated after his last attempt to get cloture and move the measure to a final vote on the Senate floor. Louisiana's Bennett Johnston, the bill's Democratic sponsor, called the effort "a lost cause." But Dole was threatening to bring the bill back for yet another vote at press time. There still appeared to be some possibility of a compromise with Democrats - many of whom are at pains to appear sympathetic to regulatory reform - that could ultimately send a modified version of the bill to the White House.

President Clinton has promised to veto the legislation, which Vice President Gore said "sells out to special interests and puts the health and safety of all Americans at risk." But there were indications the president, too, was seeking a compromise with GOP leaders. Bruce Hamilton, the Club's national conservation director, called the Dole-Johnston proposal "the most anti- environmental bill ever to come before the most anti- environmental Senate." And he said that despite uncertainty over the measure's future, Dole's failure could mark a turning point in the 104th Congress' War on the Environment. "Dole's anti-environmental supporters have spent millions of dollars trying to pass this bill," Hamilton said. "If we prevail, it will be a huge loss for polluters. It will be huge victory not just for environmentalists, but for the American public."

For an update on the bill's status, please call the Sierra Club's Legislative Hotline at (202) 675-2394.


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