Well, they didn’t get an Oscar nomination. But it wasn’t for lack of trying.
I am talking about Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and George Voinovich (R-OH), who late yesterday introduced a new version of President Bush’s pollution plan for the electric power industry (they’ve been calling it “Clear Skies” – but now that term faces some competition from US Airways, which is using the phrase in a new marketing campaign). As you may know, a Senate subcommittee chaired by Voinovich will hold what is almost certain to be a contentious hearing on the subject tomorrow.
Inhofe and Voinovich deserve an Oscar nomination for seeking to mislead the public about the realities of the President’s pollution plan – which is also the plan sought by the biggest and dirtiest electric power companies. Perhaps it should now be called the Inhofe-Voinovich plan. Here’s an example: in a statement introduced yesterday, the two senators declared that their plan ”would reduce pollution from power plants by 70 percent by 2018.” Unfortunately, more than a few reporters have been taken in by this act, but the truth is, their claims are false. Analyses by EPA and the Energy Department have noted that – because of the intricacies of pollution “trading” – the promised pollution reductions really won’t happen until around 2025 – in other words, two full decades from now.
This is one of the key reasons that the Edison Electric Institute and big member companies such as Southern Company are lobbying for the Inhofe-Voinovich plan – it would permit them to pollute more and longer than under existing law.
The Inhofe-Voinovich pollution plan also would create new loopholes for the power industry and take away key tools in the Clean Air Act that are designed to protect local communities from air pollution. Their legislation is such an elaborate attempt to prune away those pesky clean-air requirements that I hesitate to itemize all the new loopholes. But to note just a few examples: it would eliminate new source review; it would treat poisonous mercury as a non-toxic pollutant; it would take away states’ rights and paralyze states seeking to reduce pollution blowing in from other states; it would weaken protection for national parks and wilderness areas. And it would allow other smokestack industries to take advantage of giant new loopholes. That may be the real reason the National Association of Manufacturers is testifying in favor of the legislation (more on this, below). And did I mention that the Inhofe-Voinovich plan would actually encourage more carbon dioxide emissions linked to global warming? (In a fascinating interview with Bloomberg News last week, Inhofe described global warming as ``the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state.'' Go figure.)
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want more on the ugly deregulatory details of this polluter wish-list. For those of you in DC, some of our friends plan a media briefing tomorrow morning to go over some of these. I’ll try to get you the materials if you can’t make it. You can reach me by e-mail.
A little more about tomorrow’s hearing: state and local clean-air regulators will testify AGAINST the Inhofe-Voinovich plan because it will harm states’-rights and mean dirtier air compared to existing law. Our friend, Conrad Schneider, of the Clean Air Task Force, will also outline major objections. Of possible interest are some of the witnesses lined up IN FAVOR of the dirtier-air plan. Here are a few notes about them and things to look for:
Indiana State Senator Beverly Gard: Her testimony will stress the importance of the legislation to provide “certainty” for the electric power industry and to send “the signal to power companies and coal companies that coal will be an important and reliable long term source of energy for our country.” You’d almost think her testimony was influenced by the power company Cinergy, which is a major electricity supplier in her state and a financial contributor to her most recent election campaign. I doubt she’ll make note of that.
Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic: He’s actually testifying on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which to my knowledge has not publicly endorsed the Inhofe-Voinovich plan. An interesting footnote: even though Plusquellic is a Democrat (and putting out feelers to run for governor of Ohio), he is no stranger to the Voinovich clan. In fact, in a report a few years back, an Ohio non-profit group pointed out that Plusquellic had received campaign contributions from Voinovich’s brother, who received some controversial Akron city contracts.
Ron Harper, CEO and General Manager, Basin Electric Power Cooperative: A big coal-burning electricity supplier in some Western states. Basin Electric has stirred up controversy by lobbying for new development that could threaten air quality in national parks. His organization would love to eliminate some of those pesky clean-air requirements.
And, finally, Fred Parady Manager, Environmental Services, OCI Wyoming, L.P. on behalf of the National Association of Manufacturers: He will note that the America’s manufacturing industry is fully backing the Inhofe-Voinovich plan. (A curious footnote: his company is actually a subsidiary of a South Korean company. OCI stands for “Oriental Chemical Industries of South Korea.”)