For the first time, a top federal official acknowledged Friday that the environmental problem of acid rain demands immediate action, not just the continued study advocated by President Reagan.
“I will recommend the Administration acknowledge there is a problem,” Drew Lewis, Reagan’s special envoy on acid rain, told a meeting of New England governors here. “Saying (sulfide) doesn’t cause acid rain seems to me the same as saying smoking doesn’t cause cancer.”
Lewis did not specify what action should be taken, but noted that Reagan has directed him to submit a report on the matter by March 1, 1986.
Last March, Reagan and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney appointed special envoys--Lewis for the United States and William G. Davis for Canada--to seek a joint solution to the acid rain problem.
The envoys said they expected that their reports would recommend a $1-billion program to curb sulfur dioxide emissions from industrial smokestacks.
Two years ago, the New England governors proposed a $2-billion federal trust fund, supported by a nationwide tax on utilities, to help Midwestern industries install anti-pollution equipment.
The governors at the New England Governors’ Conference on Friday called Lewis’ remarks a breakthrough in efforts to reduce the amount of sulfate emissions, particularly those generated in the Midwest.
They said they were relieved that a high-ranking federal administrator had acknowledged that their lakes and woodlands are threatened by the emissions.
“If the kind of report you are talking about is forthcoming, I think it will be an enormous boost to the work we have been struggling with,” Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis told Lewis.
“Usually, when we discuss acid rain at these meetings, we spend a lot of time just trying to convince the speaker there is a problem,” Vermont Gov. Madeleine M. Kunin said.