Published: Tuesday 15 October 1996

Environment has once again become the key word in the American election process. However, unlike last time, when there were two clear stands -- one for the environment and another not so much in favour of it -- this time, both Democrats and Republicans are singing green paeans.

For the Democrats, environment was a winning issue in the last election as the Republicans realised much to their chagrin. Now, the latter are cleaning, or rather, greening their image to portray a more eco-friendly profile. What has emerged, in spite of all green rhetoric flying thick and fast, (sample President Bill Clinton's comment: "We should make it a crime even to attempt to pollute") is that the trend towards establishing flexible regulations is continuing.

Two issues reflect the divide between the two parties. Clinton's eco-package calls for scaling back but not eliminating the amount that polluters must pay for the Superfund hazardous waste cleanups. Further, it opposes a bill to compensate businesses and other property owners for property-value loss due to environmental regulations. Bob Dole's Republicans, on the other hand, would like to see a sharp reduction or even elimination of the amount polluters must pay for the Superfund.

The Endangered Species Act is yet another burning issue. The Republicans insist that the Act places more value on spotted owls and gnatcatchers than on jobs for the people. The Clinton administration is also seeking to exempt small landowners from penalties under this Act, while the Republicans would like to reimburse large and small businesses for losses in property as a fall-out of this law. There are hopes that a compromise bill can be reached which will emphasise more on preserving habitats than trying to save individual species. Current opinion polls favour Clinton as being more green than his Republican counterpart.

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