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The Senate has approved a resolution that would force the Environmental Protection Agency to release about $50 million for asbestos-removal efforts in schools.

With little debate, the Senate approved the measure on March 3. The resolution, which would require the E.P.A. to return to its original timetable for distributing the funds, was passed by the House last month.

Unless signed by President Reagan, however, the legislation has no effect. Without that approval, an E.P.A. spokesman said, the agency will not speed up release of the money.

The current controversy began in January, when the Administration asked the Congress to delete all funding for the asbestos-control effort from the federal budget. Although Mr. Reagan approved the creation of the program last year, Administration officials said then that the money was no longer needed.

The E.P.A., in turn, announced that it would not release the funds until the Congress ruled on the Administration's proposed cut, technically known as a rescission. The agency had initially planned to start awarding grants to local school districts next month.

Congressional critics denounced the E.P.A.'s policy, arguing that the delay would threaten efforts to remove potentially cancer-causing asbestos from contaminated schools over the summer recess.

"Delay would force much of the good work planned for this summer to be postponed yet another year,'' said Senator Daniel P. Moynihan, Democrat of New York. "This is simply unacceptable.''

The issue, however, is on the verge of becoming academic. Unless the Congress acts on the proposed rescission by March 15, the request will automatically die, forcing the E.P.A. to release the money.

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