Friday, June 10, 2005

Updates on lawn mowers and deadly particle soot

A couple of updates:

First, Senator Kit Briggs (actually Kit Bond) struck a lawnmower deal yesterday with Senator Dianne Feinstein. It's well-recounted in today's Washington Post at

Bond, acting at the behest of the giant lawnmower manufacturer, Briggs & Stratton, has been trying to block standards that would require that lawnmowers pollute less. Earlier in the week, he slipped a pro-Briggs amendment into an EPA spending bill. His plan said EPA could not move forward until a safety study was conducted by a Swedish agency with ties to a DC lobbying firm that used to represent the tobacco industry. Once we disclosed his nutty scheme (do the folks back home really want U.S. taxpayers to subsidize jobs in Sweden?), Bond was willing to compromise. Unfortunately, so was Feinstein, who told Greenwire that she cut a deal rather than risk losing a vote. The revised amendment would still require a safety study, but done by EPA "in coordination with other appropriate federal agencies." Appropriate, in this context, means agencies that will take orders from Senator Briggs.

In another interesting development, EPA's outside science advisors have recommended that the agency set considerably tougher standards for fine particle soot. This is a very significant development. This panel, which even included scientists with industry connections, has given EPA the green light to set tougher pollution standards. If EPA does that, it could prompt the need for even tougher controls on big sources of fine-particles – including coal-burning power plants and diesel engines – than envisioned today. But will this EPA actually pay attention to science?

The entire letter by the scientists is at


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