The Multinational Monitor


G L O B A L   N E W S W A T C H

Canada "Alarmed" As Stockmanshrugs Off Acid Rain Issue

The Reagan Administration's approach to the environment is already stirring up bitter feelings between the United States and Canada over the sensitive subject of acid rain.

In early may, several top Canadian officials-including Secretary of State for External Affairs Mark MacGuigan came to what was billed as an international conference on acid rain at the State University of New York Buffalo campus.

But two representatives of the Reagan Administration were scheduled to speak - James McAvoy, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and Frederick Khedouri, an associate director from the Office of Management and Budget - pulled out at the last moment. That left the U.S. represented by a bureaucrat from the Interagency Task Force on Acid Precipitation-a body with no decision-making powers.

The no-shows by MacAvoy - who has since been nominated by Reagan for a seat on the Council on Environmental Quality-and Khedouri only heightened Canadian concern about the emerging environmental policy of the Reagan Administration. "The close and excellent relationship which has traditionally existed between our two countries," said Kenneth C. Norton, Ontario's Minister of the Environment, "is certainly being tested by recent developments."

Norton seemed particularly disturbed by a recent remark from Office of Management and Budget Director David Stockman. "I keep reading these stories that there are 170 dead lakes in New York," Stockman said recently, "Well how much are the fish worth in these 170 lakes?" Commented Norton, "We have become increasingly alarmed at what appears to be happening in your country as reflected in comments like those quoted from Mr. Stockman."

Norton also charged the Reagan Administration with backing off the memorandum of intent on acid rain signed between the two countries last August. "Despite the commitments given under the memorandum of intent," he said, "existing pollution control regulations are not being enforced. The promised consultation with Canada on setting and enforcing standards has not taken place."

Decisions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the past year to relax sulfur standards for nine power plants-which increased their emissions by 800,000 tons annually-have angered the Canadians. In March, Ontario formally intervened in an EPA proceeding to oppose the raising of emission levels for 18 other power plants in the Midwest. The state of New York also filed papers opposing the move.

In his address to the conference, MacGuigan said both countries have a "moral responsibility" to ensure "that what was given to us is not left ravaged and extinct because we lacked the foresight or the will to protect it ... ,"

MacGuigan pressed for quick action on the negotiations beginning in June to design a bilateral air quality treaty that would govern the acid rain problem. Canada is anxious to complete such an agreement because about half of the sulfur and nitrogen pollution in Canada comes from American sources.

Those negotiations are not likely to proceed smoothly, though, because they come at a time when the Reagan Administration is rapidly disassembling the environmental regulatory structure established during the 1970s and contemplating major revisions in the Clean Air Act. With the coal and utility industries resisting remedial measures-and even questioning the existence of the problem-Reagan will not move quickly to deal with acid rain.

That prospect will almost certainly increase tensions with Canada before long. "Delays would be particularly repugnant to Canadians," MacGuigan warned at the conference, "if they were the result solely of narrow vested interests."

- Ronald Brownstein

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