Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Lawnmower lobbyist slated to become EPA top cop

Well, this one almost got past us. (Thanks to friends at Public Citizen for flagging it.)

Tomorrow the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on several people nominated for key jobs at the EPA. One of those jobs, of course, is that of EPA’s top enforcer. Granta Nakayama, a partner with the Kirkland & Ellis law firm, has been nominated for that slot.

There’s been a flap over Kirkland & Ellis’ representation of W.R. Grace, which is under federal criminal indictment on charges related to the operation of its vermiculite mine in Libby, Mont. Hundreds of workers and Libby residents contracted lethal asbestos-related disease -- a situation that gained national attention after a Seattle Post-Intelligencer series in 1999. An asbestos-victims coalition has come out in opposition to Nakayama, even though the law firm denies he’s been involved in the Grace case.

One notorious corporation Nakayama HAS lobbied for, however, is the Briggs & Stratton Corporation, which has employed Nakayama since 2002 to try to undermine government efforts to clean up dirty small engines. (So far, Nakayama has succeeded pretty well at blocking the cleanup of lawnmowers and other dirty small engines. As most of you will recall, this is an ongoing issue, with both EPA and a Swedish-based organization – perhaps underwritten by Briggs & Stratton? – planning further studies before cleanup can begin. Please call or e-mail if you need more.)

In this era, it’s something short of person-bites-dog stuff to note that the Bush administration has tapped a polluter lobbyist to become its top environmental cop. Still, you have to wonder if any senators will even ask Nakayama about his efforts to thwart pollution cleanup – and whether he’ll have a different perspective once working for the public. It’s probably a safe bet that Briggs & Stratton’s big Senate champion, Senator Kit Bond (R-MO), will vote to confirm Nakayama.

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