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More than 30 people crowded around a long conference table yesterday afternoon to hear Phillip A. Sharp, the director the Institute of Politics (IOP), talk about the politics of environmental legislation, especially the Clean Air Act of 1990.
"The Bush Administration had created a ground in which nobody could put together their sides for a strong enough opposition," Sharp said. "The environmentalists were thrown off guard by the president's bill because they saw the Bush Administration as a continuation of president [Ronald] Reagan whom they viewed as the enemy."
One of the main provisions of this bill was its setting of a specific amount of sulphur dioxide, 10 million tons, to be removed from the environment by the year 2000.
Sharp, who stepped down from Congress this year after 10 terms as a representative from Indiana, said this was a response to the growing concern over acid rain on the sides of both the environmentalists and the industrial associations.
Roger B. Porter, IBM professor of business and government at the Kennedy School of Government, was also present at the discussion and offered his perspective as an advisor to the Bush Administration at the time of the 1990 bill.
In the aftermath of the U.S.-Canadian Free Trade Agreement "The Canadian prime minister was really pressuring the president to address the acid rain issue," Porter said. The Canadian atmosphere receives a large amount of the American industries' sulphur dioxide wastes.
This combined with Bush's stand as pro-environment and the background of a 10-year build-up of public concern over the acid rain and failing Environmental Protection agency standards to encourage a decisive move on the president's part, Porter said.
Sharp also answered and discussed questions about the future of the Clean Air Act.
"In Congress now there are quite specific attacks being lodged, and there is no question that the environmental movement as a whole is on the defensive," Sharp said.
However, he said he believes that "the environmental issue will remain very politically important."
Alexandra Lora and Judith Chaisiri, two summer school students who attended the discussion, said they found it interesting to see the contrasting viewpoints of Sharp, a Democrat, and Porter, a Republican, on the environmental issue.
"It got me wondering about what my own state is doing in the environmental department," Chaisiri, a Virginia resident, said.
Lora, a native of Columbia, agreed: "It made me think about the lack of environmental interest in my own country."
Sharp finished the discussion by asserting his belief that "the American public is willing to tolerate some
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