WASHINGTON (AP) -- In their sharpest clash since the 2000 campaign, President Bush and Al Gore are giving dueling Earth Day speeches -- Bush touting his plan to combat air pollution and his former rival contending the White House is sabotaging environmental protections.
Bush was spotlighting a market-based proposal he has promised will deliver "dramatic progress" in air quality. He was making his pitch Monday at Lake Everest, in New York state's acid rain-plagued Adirondack Mountains.
The president has asked Congress to approve mandatory limits on total industry output of three kinds of pollutants, and to let companies work out how to achieve them through a system of earning and trading credits. The pollutants are acid rain-causing sulfur dioxide, smog-causing nitrogen oxide and mercury, a toxic chemical that contaminates waterways and goes up the food chain through fish to people.
Under his "Clear Skies" plan, Bush maintains, each pollutant would be reduced by about 70 percent by 2018. Congress has yet to vote on his proposal.
Gore contends the plan would ultimately allow more emissions of each than under current law.
"Put simply, on the environment, this administration has consistently sold out America's future in return for short-term political gains," the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee said in a New York Times guest column Sunday. Aides said his speech at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. -- scheduled to begin 25 minutes after Bush's -- would echo the article.
The Adirondack Council and some other environmental groups in upstate New York have embraced Bush's plan, which was modeled after the Environmental Protection Agency's program for reducing acid rain.
"It is based on a highly successful program and we're just expanding that to three of the top pollutants," EPA spokesman Joe Martyak said. "Clear Skies is the best solution right now to dealing with some of our biggest pollution and related public health issues."
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