Thursday, June 23, 2005

Opponents of pollution controls on small engines keep fighting

As the full Senate prepares to take up the spending bill for the US EPA (which includes the Kit Bond requirement for EPA to conduct a new study of the safety impact of putting small catalytic converters on lawn mowers and other small engines), it appears as an organization affiliated with critics of pollution control are planning their own study of the issue. This could pose yet another complication for EPA and the state of California as they seek to clean up dirty small engines.

You may recall that Senator Bond initially sought to have American taxpayers foot the bill for a study conducted by a Swedish agency affiliated with an outfit called The International Consortium for Fire Safety, Health & the Environment.

Now that organization, which overlaps with past critics of the effort to clean up small engines, has written to us. In a rather defensive letter, the Consortium notes that it is “attempting to assess the burn and fire performance of emission controls on outdoor power equipment. This latter project soon will be part of a broad look at wildland fire management, which has environmental, fire safety and economic interests at odds.”

Well, it’s hard to tell who’s actually going to pay for this assessment, but it wouldn’t shock me if one or more of the “outdoor power equipment” makers (Briggs & Stratton?) ends up involved. The Consortium notes on its web site www.clean-and-safe.org that “Grants and gifts may be requested of or accepted from any government agency, foundation, corporation, association or individual. These grants and gifts may be designated for the use by individual programs within the Consortium. However, upon conveying a grant or gift, contributors have no further say in the specific use of these resources by the programs.”

There’s some obvious overlap between this organization and the National Association of State Fire Marshals (among other things, they have the same D.C, representative), which has previously criticized efforts to clean up small engines. The fire marshals, in turn, solicit money from corporations and organizations. (The Los Angeles Times reported in 1998 that the fire marshals received money from Philip Morris Inc. and R.J. Reynolds and supported the tobacco industry position in a fight over fire-safe cigarettes.)

Stay tuned. The plot sickens, as they say.

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