Thursday, March 31, 2005

Mass. lawmaker to Canadian leader: Americans may soon be coming to Canada to buy cars

As you may know, Canada has reached a tentative agreement with the car companies that would require the companies to sell cars in Canada that emit fewer greenhouse gases. The auto industry are resisted similar action by the U.S. government.

Now, a Mass. State lawmaker – Jim Marzilli -- has written to Canada’s prime minister to applaud the effort and to note that Americans may soon be heading to Canada to buy cars as they often do with medicines. See his letter below.

It’s a plausible scenario. As you probably know, the car companies are suing and taking other steps to try to block the development of lower-emitting cars in the U.S. And this could end up in Congress’ lap before the year is out.

The National Academy of Sciences is studying the issue of permitting states to adopt standards that are better than U.S. standards. And the academy has a hearing on the issue scheduled to take place in Boston on April 14.

Right now, California is permitted to adopt better standards, and states are free to adopt the California standards. But the car companies have testified that they would like to eliminate the right of states to adopt the California standards – and the car companies have gone to court to kill the California standards themselves. We are concerned that they will soon try to get the U.S. Congress to kill the right of states to require cleaner cars.

Should that happen, the only alternative for U.S. consumers would be to vote with their feet – to come to Canada for cleaner cars.

***


March 30, 2005
Hon. Paul Martin
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa
K1A 0A2

Re: Cleaner Climate Cars in Canada

Dear Prime Minister Martin and Canadian Parliamentarians:

In recent days, Canadian and U.S. news media have reported on the apparently successful negotiations between the Canadian government and the Canadian automobile manufacturing industry concerning the production of 25% more fuel-efficient, higher technology vehicles to help Canada meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

Regulations for similarly low-emitting vehicles have been adopted in California, and seven Northeastern states are in the process of echoing California's lead in requiring these cleaner climate cars. With the addition of Canada, fully one-third of the North American auto market would thus have to meet California's tough emissions standards.

Regrettably, the automakers have chosen to sue over California's regulations, putting this significant environmental achievement at risk. In this context, Canada's leadership is all the more vital. Ironically for the U.S., such litigation may also create a significant market opportunity for Canada: just as Americans have crossed the Canadian border in droves in recent years to buy cheaper medicines, the many Americans concerned about climate change may soon find themselves crossing the border to buy cleaner cars. Canadian auto manufacturers may also find greater export opportunity to clean car buyers elsewhere in the U.S. who cannot travel north as readily as those of us in the Northeast.

I understand that the battle for cleaner climate cars in Canada is not yet over, but I commend your efforts and urge you to stand fast in modernizing the fuel efficiency and technology of your portion of the North American vehicle fleet - as you also reserve the right to reduce greenhouse emissions from other sectors. I have sent a letter to my colleagues in the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requesting their support of this letter. Citizens in both our countries desire and deserve the right to choose the cleaner, more efficient cars of the future, to have less pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and to purchase those cars near where they live.

By standing your ground, Canada can prove that the cleaner cars of the future can indeed be built - starting today.

Yours sincerely,


Rep. James Marzilli

Representative Jim Marzilli
Vice-Chairman, Committee on Health Care Financing
C0-Chairman, Energy and Environment Committee, Council of State Governments
State House Room 236
Boston, MA 02133

617-722-2430
rep.jamesmarzilli@hou.state.ma.us

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

News notes

A few items perhaps worth noting:

Where’s the consistency? The U.S. Environmental Protection agency today announced updated guidelines regarding the risk of cancer from exposure to chemicals in the environment. The EPA plan would require regulators to pay particular attention to the risk that chemicals pose to young children. Well and good. But why wasn’t the agency using a similar approach when it came to regulating mercury, when the agency sided with big polluters instead of babies? Maybe if mercury were linked to cancer, instead of such things as brain development, heart problems, etc. The bottom line is that the coal and coal-burning power industries wouldn’t stand for tougher mercury requirements, while the chemical industry apparently was ok with the overall package of new cancer guidelines.

A secret deal for coal? EPA’s recent “clean air interstate rule” received a fair amount of praise from environmentalists (we’d grade it a C+) – perhaps because it demonstrated we could make at least some progress without re-writing the whole Clean Air Act to cut new breaks for polluters. But now it turns out that buried in the weeds of this rule was a secret deal for coal states. In today’s BNA Daily Environment Report, reporter Steve Cook discloses that “States that rely on coal to generate electricity will be able to emit more nitrogen oxides than originally proposed.” That’s because EPA manipulated its process to give added emission “allowances” in the final rule to states that burn more coal. States getting the extra break include Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana. States more dependent on natural gas – including the District of Columbia, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and New York – will receive fewer emission “allowances.” Energy producers that use gas are noting that EPA used the rule to pick a fuel “winner” – coal – in sharp contrast to the Bush administration’s rhetoric that it is relying on “market forces.”

Science update: On April 6 and 7, EPA’s outside science advisers will be reviewing a recommendation by agency scientists that the current national air quality standard for fine particle matter (set in 1997, but only put in place recently because of industry legal challenges) should be made more restrictive. See agenda at http://www.epa.gov/sab/05agendas/casac_pm_rev_panel_04_6-7_05_agenda.pdf

EPA is under a court deadline to propose a decision in the matter later this year. Science Magazine published an interesting overview last week. Please let me know if you want a copy. More on this matter later in the week.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


NASCAR reply to Clean Air Watch Posted by Hello

NASCAR responds to Clean Air Watch

It took two months, but NASCAR has finally responded to our letter regarding the continuing use of leaded gasoline in NASCAR races.

But did NASCAR really say anything? You can decide.

***
March 18, 2005

Mr. Frank O'Donnell
President
Clean Air Watch
1090 Vermont Avenue, N.W.
Suite 800
Washington, DC 2005

Dear Mr. O'Donnell,

Thank you for your letter concerning the use of leaded fuel in NASCAR. NASCAR takes seriously all aspects of health and safety for its fans, participants and the environment. In this regard, NASCAR has been actively working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for several years and more recently with our new fuel supplier, Sunoco, to come up with possible alternatives to our current fuel formula.

NASCAR and Sunoco will continue to evaluate new fuel formulations and specifications that will allow NASCAR engines to continue to perform while not causing unintended consequences in other areas. We are encouraged by the progress and will continue to work diligently to determine the best solution for our racing application.

Sincerely,

Gary Nelson
Vice President of Research and Development
NASCAR, Inc.

cc: Robert A. Marro, Sonoco [sic]. Inc.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

tompaine.com on mercury

http://www.tompaine.com/articles/mercurial_rulemaking.php

Mercurial Rulemaking
Frank O'Donnell
March 22, 2005



The Washington Post reported this morning that the EPA ignored an EPA-sponsored report saying that enforcing the existing mercury regulations would yield more than a 600 percent return on the cost of cleanup. Instead, they chose to relax the rules on mercury for another 20 years, condemning a new generation of children to this poison. Frank O'Donnell gives the behind-the-scenes story.

Frank O'Donnell is president of Clean Air Watch, a 501 (c) 3 non-partisan, non-profit organization aimed at educating the public about clean air and the need for an effective Clean Air Act.

You almost have to pity Steve Johnson, recently tapped by President Bush to head the Environmental Protection Agency. A scientist and career EPA employee, Johnson was put in place to create the perception that major EPA actions were based on science instead of politics. But right out of the gate, Johnson was forced to swallow hard and do exactly what his Bush administration predecessors did—make a big decision based not on science, but on a White House dictate aimed at befriending political supporters.

The March 15 decision was about regulating electric utility industry emissions of toxic mercury, which spews from smokestacks of coal-burning power plants. Under orders from the White House, Johnson basically gave the electric power industry a huge gift: rather than enforcing the Clean Air Act—and insisting that every coal-burning power plant in the nation clean up toxic mercury within the next several years—the EPA gave the coal burners more than two decades to make significant reductions in emissions of this poison. Even then, the cleanup would be less than what could be achieved with technologies available today.

In scientific terms, it's a no-brainer to clean up mercury. It poisons fish and can harm the brains of developing fetuses or nursing babies. Federal authorities note at least one woman in 12 of child-bearing age already has too much mercury in her system. The problem is so widespread that 45 states have issued advisories urging people to limit or avoid consumption of mercury-contaminated fish.

Indeed, we've known for generations that mercury is dangerous. Mercury once was used in felt production, until felt hat makers started getting tremors—a development that led to the Mad Hatter character in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the popular phrase "mad as a hatter."

In an effort to crack down on the toxin, the Clinton administration cleaned up most of the mercury from two big smokestack sources—municipal waste incinerators and medical incinerators. And it set in motion a plan to do the same with the biggest remaining source, the electric power industry. Moving forward with the Clinton plan, EPA staffers suggested early in the Bush administration that the power industry could eliminate 90 percent of its mercury pollution up by 2008.

That was enough to wake up power industry lobbyists, led by Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn, President Bush's former college classmate and "Pioneer" presidential fundraiser. (Other "Pioneers" or "Rangers" included executives and lobbyists for such power companies as Southern Company, Cinergy and TXU.) Killing the tough mercury requirements envisioned by Clinton became a top industry priority. The lobbyists set out to replace the planned cleanup rule with a much more industry-friendly plan similar to the proposed so-called "clear skies" legislation, which they helped write.

The industry effort came with cash. Power companies spent more than $37 million on campaign contributions since the 2000 election—with President Bush the leading recipient.
The industry lobbying paid dividends. As EPA was drafting its proposed rules, the agency's politically appointed head of air pollution control, Jeffrey Holmstead, was called to the White House. There he received the agency's marching orders from James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. And so politics and money trumped science.

Both EPA's inspector general and the Government Accountability Office have noted irregularities in the process EPA used to write its mercury rule. The EPA rule was doctored to make sure it wasn't better than "clear skies." The White House refused to allow EPA staff to even consider tougher cleanup alternatives. And, as the Washington Post has noted, EPA ignored a Harvard study (paid for by the EPA and co-authored by an EPA scientist) which predicted huge health benefits from mercury cleanup.

How Bad Is Bush's Plan?

A child born today would be in college—assuming his or her brain wasn't impaired by mercury—before the rule would take full effect. Another generation of babies will be threatened by the poison that will continue wafting from power company smokestacks.

The decision was so obviously polluted that it was even denounced by 11 moderate House Republicans, led by Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., who noted that there are already available mercury cleanup devices that are "being aggressively developed, demonstrated and deployed."

Desperate to put some positive "spin" on the story, EPA asserted that cleaning up power plants wouldn't do much good anyway, since most of the fish we eat comes from international waters.
The censored Harvard study disputed this "spin." And EPA also forgot to mention that in February, the Bush administration killed a European initiative to develop an international treaty to reduce mercury pollution worldwide. The Bush strategy, in other words, was blame U.S. mercury problems on pollution from overseas, while killing any effort to take international action.

It is ironic, of course, that an administration which makes so much about "moral" issues and protecting what it terms "the unborn," would abandon that kind of thinking when it conflicts with the needs of well-heeled campaign supporters. One lesson learned from this sorry episode: Babies don't make campaign contributions. Big energy companies do.

The real question now: Will any senators demand to explore this issue more thoroughly—including the role of the White House—when the EPA's Steve Johnson comes before them for confirmation hearings later this year?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Mercury and Bush Administration Spin

The Bush administration has been working overtime trying to "spin" its pro-industry plan for mercury as something other than what it is -- an initiative to relieve big coal-burning electric power companies of the responsibility to clean up toxic mercury emissions for 15 to 20 years.
A few factoids:

Bogus claims: Be wary about EPA (and industry) claims that the new rule would reduce mercury emissions by 70%. Buried in the fine print of EPA’s material is the note that – because of the flexibility inherent in the “cap-and-trade” approach, is an admission that EPA’s own analyses show that the rules would produce “about a 35 percent reduction in 2010, about 42 percent reduction in 2015, and about 50 percent reduction in 2020 from a 1999 baseline of 48 tons.” There is no evidence that the rule would ever require a 70% reduction in mercury emissions.

Moral values: For an administration that makes much about moral values, we’re sure not hearing much today about the fact that those most impacted by a delay in mercury cleanup will be pregnant women and infants.

Your tax money at work: You may not know this, but the U.S. Department of Energy is sponsoring a very interesting effort to demonstrate innovative mercury cleanup controls. “With today's technologies, mercury removal can range from essentially no control to as high as 90 percent,” the department notes. “The department's goal is to develop more effective options that will cut mercury emissions 50 to 70 percent by 2005 and 90 percent by 2010 at one-quarter to one-half of current cost estimates.” Indeed, recent DOE-sponsored tests have demonstrated very effective controls. Check out some of the results at http://www.netl.doe.gov/coal/E&WR/mercury/index.htmlAnd http://www.netl.doe.gov/coal/E&WR/mercury/index.html

Friday, March 11, 2005

NASCAR Update

An interesting update has come to my attention. A NASCAR technical expert now is conceding that lead is not needed in race cars.

Glenn Feiske of the NASCAR Technical Institute http://www.ntieducation.com/home.asp , which describes itself as “the exclusive educational partner of NASCAR,” told WCNC television in Charlotte that lead isn’t really needed if other technology improvements were made.

“If you said right now there’s no more leaded fuel – we’re not going to run leaded fuel,” said Feiske, “It could be done.”

Meanwhile, here is a sampling of e-mails that Clean Air Watch has received in response to our initial call that NASCAR heed EPA's warning about the continuing use of lead:
***
from Nate and Beth Jackson nbvjackson@hotmail.com:

Frank first off you damn communist,do you have a clear understanding who you just messed with?You people will never be satisfied until we live in your little perfect greenie-weenie utopia.I would love to be swearing my ass off right now but you are not worth it.why do you not go to some other country outside of the USA for once and try to tell their leaders what they should do,HUH.....cause they will run you right out of their f*cking country ASSHOLE!
****
from Jimi Vignogna [jarn05@optonline.net]

to whom ever this may concern,

why is it that people feel the need to but their noses in where they dont belong? why do busy body enviormental groups feel the need to try to save the world when the problem areas they target do not support 1/10,000 of the problem they are facing?not to mention your nascar pollution problem is as bogus as your organizations claims and clean air has no scientific evidence to back any of their claims up! the fact is you and your organization is just like big government target the little guy or take the easy way out! i would not doubt that clean airs superiors are looking to get their pockets lined by way of the nascar buck, when in the last 50 plus years of any form of motor sport in or out of this country was a claim made from any one saying they were sick from anything that went on at the race track? let me tell you

NEVER!!!!

do you know how much lead is in per gallon of fuel ? i bet you do not , does your organization know how many race fuel manufacturers exsist? and how many million dollar companys you will force out of business? how about the legal ramifications from the thousands of race car owners that will have to spend billions of dollars to modify their race cars to accept non leaded fuels, would your organization like to have to face a class action law suite of this magnatude ? before you and your followers decide to try and fix problems or challenge organizations to change you better fully investigate what you are doing and look far past your nose to the economical ramifications that will be induced by your insane claims!!!!
****
from Joe McDuffie [texflm@sbcglobal.net]:

SHUT THE HELL UP YOU WACKO
***
from Las Vegas Sun Columnist Ron Kantowski

I had to laugh at the logic environmental groups are using to encourage NASCAR to get the lead out...

While I can't speak for the nearby residents, I don't think the millions of stock car fans who pump mass quantities of alcohol directly into their blood streams while chain-smoking Winstons and munching on pork rinds every Sunday afternoon are going to be too concerned about inhaling a few parts per million of tainted Sunoco.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Thoughts on new EPA interstate rule

These rules are long overdue. (You may recall that former EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt tried to issue the rules last December, but the White House ordered him to delay them.)

They are a step in the right direction, though they are too little, and too late. Many states will need additional cleanup to protect their citizens. A number of eastern states complained that these requirements would still leave them with a big pollution problem.

Fortunately, yesterday’s rejection of the so-called “clear skies” plan will mean that states should retain their authority to finish the job that EPA has started.

Despite the shortcomings, these new rules are much better than “clear skies,” which would have curbed state authority and eliminated other protections in current law such as new source review.

Bottom line: these rules show the whole "clear skies" attempt was a giant con job; its real agenda was to cut breaks for polluters.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Tom Paine.com on "clear skies"

http://www.tompaine.com/articles/a_clear_skies_smokescreen.php

A Clear Skies Smokescreen
Frank O'Donnell
March 07, 2005



From the outset, the real goal of the Clear Skies Act has been to cut breaks for the biggest polluters—to postpone cleanup deadlines into the mid- 2020s, to eliminate pesky provisions of current law and to take away states’ rights to enforce the law. Now Bush allies in the Senate are trying to strong-arm moderates into accepting Clear Skies, instead of standing for the existing Clean Air Act's stronger polluter requirements. Veteran environmentalist Frank O'Donnell explains.

Frank O'Donnell is president of Clean Air Watch, a 501 (c) 3 non-partisan, non-profit organization aimed at educating the public about clean air and the need for an effective Clean Air Act. Visit the website at www.cleanairwatch.org.

On March 4, when President Bush named EPA career scientist Stephen Johnson as the agency’s new head, the president declared that Johnson’s main job would be selling the so-called “clear skies” plan to Congress.

It may have been a last-ditch effort to breathe new life into the president’s ill-named, industry-friendly proposal. If the plan isn’t already six feet under, it’s clear that some lawmakers are eyeing the shovels.

Even so, the Bush administration and its corporate allies are feverishly lobbying in an effort to ram this polluter protection plan through a closely divided Senate. Their strategy is focused on picking off moderate Senate Democrats such as Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Max Baucus, D-Mont. (In what appears to have been an audition for his new job, Johnson recently toured Obama’s Illinois to promote the Bush plan in the local media.) It’s still unclear whether any of the moderates will bend under the White House pressure.

Given the complex spiderwork of lies spun by the White House and its corporate allies on this issue, it might be worth a moment to step back and examine what the “clear skies” fuss is all about.

To put the issue in context, it’s worth recalling that when President Clinton left office, the biggest electric power polluters—including Southern Company, American Electric Power and Cinergy—were running scared. Using authorities in the existing Clean Air Act, the Clinton administration had brought lawsuits aimed at compelling cleanup of aging, coal-burning power plants that had been illegally modified to keep running without modern pollution controls. The Clinton EPA had also set in motion a plan to require every power plant in the nation to clean up toxic mercury emissions by 2008.

No sooner had the Bush administration taken office than these and other big polluters (all big Bush campaign contributors) lined up outside Vice President Cheney’s office to request regulatory relief. Cheney, in turn, directed the EPA to reconsider its policy of enforcing the law. In the process, the Bush administration developed a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to air pollution—don’t ask the biggest polluters to clean up, and don’t tell the public the truth about what’s really happening. Enforcement trailed off, and Bush appointees crafted an illegal plan to permit power companies to continue spewing toxic mercury for decades.

But the big power companies remained concerned that a future administration could revive enforcement of the law. And so the “clear skies” plan was born, with support of the biggest and worst power polluters. From the outset, the real goal has been to cut breaks for the biggest polluters—to postpone cleanup deadlines into the mid- 2020s, to eliminate pesky provisions of current law and to take away states’ rights that would permit a state attorney general like New York’s Eliot Spitzer to enforce the law. The Bush plan also would, in effect, grant coal-burning power companies a shield against calls for them to limit carbon dioxide emissions linked to global warming.

The White House has consistently misrepresented the “clear skies” plan since it was first unveiled three years ago. It claimed that the Clean Air Act must be changed to make further progress against air pollution. [That administration lie was caught after EPA staffers leaked an agency PowerPoint presentation, which noted that “business as usual”—that is, enforcement of the existing Clean Air Act—would mean cleaner air more quickly than a rewrite of the law.]
Carrying the administration’s legislative spear in the Senate are James Inhofe, R-Okla.,—chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, perhaps best known for declaring global warming a “hoax”—and George Voinovich, R-Ohio, whose home-state power companies desperately want to evade the cleanup requirements of existing law.

To date, the Inhofe committee has been deadlocked 9-9 as Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., has joined Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., and the Democratic minority in opposing the Bush plan. Efforts by the Republican majority to break the deadlock have taken on comic opera dimensions. (In a blatant bid to buy Baucus’ vote, Inhofe introduced a new draft of the bill with special privileges for a Montana coal mine.)

Emerging as leader of the committee’s pivotal “moderate” faction (which includes Baucus, Chafee and Obama) is soft-spoken Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the ranking Democrat on the Senate Clean Air Subcommittee. Carper has repeatedly said he is open to a compromise that might simplify existing law—especially if coupled with mandatory limits on global warming pollution from power plants. But Carper is insisting that the administration provide him more analysis of alternatives before he agrees to any compromise.

There are many reasons why Carper and his colleagues should not be stampeded into accepting a weakening of the Clean Air Act. Here’s just one example: the EPA is expected this week to announce new “clean air interstate” rules. Those rules, being issued under the authority of current law, will call for emissions reductions from power plants without the regulatory relief contained in “clear skies.”

Those interstate rules won’t be perfect. As many states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic have noted, EPA could use the authority of existing law to make deeper pollution reductions and do it more quickly. However, those rules do demonstrate that the existing Clean Air Act already contains tools needed to make continuing progress against air pollution. Rewriting the law isn’t necessary. Those rules show the Bush-Inhofe-Voinovich legislative plan off for what it really is—a smokescreen to help corporate outlaws evade other clean-air requirements.

Happenings in Illinois, Indiana

While the Senate deadlock continues over the “clear skies” plan (don’t give even money for a resolution this week), and while we await EPA’s so-called “clean air interstate rules” (expect attempts at positive pr to deflect attention away from an atrocious decision on toxic mercury), there are two very interesting developments today outside DC:

1) The Justice Department has announced a new source review settlement with Illinois Power. This is one of the cases brought by the Clinton administration. This is the sort of case that could not have happened under the “clear skies” plan, which would obliterate new source review. This settlement undercuts the arguments of “clear skies” proponents because it demonstrates that we can reduce pollution effectively by enforcing the current Clean Air Act.


2) Indiana is suing the US EPA over the federal government’s recent decision to designate 19 areas of Indiana as out of compliance with fine-particle soot standards. Indiana asks in its suit that all but three of 19 areas be removed from U.S. EPA's non-attainment list for fine particle pollution that will become effective April 5, 2005. As our friend, John Walke of NRDC noted today, there are a couple of grim ironies here: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and EPA Administrator-designate Stephen Johnson stood side by side last month, while Johnson announced that “Clear Skies also would help Indiana counties that violate federal standards for smog and soot comply with the limits; and one of the central complaints lodged by proponents of Clear Skies is the argument that there is too much litigation under the current Clean Air Act.

US News & World Report on NASCAR

http://www.usnews.com/usnews/politics/whispers/whisphome.htm

In Quotes

"So, like, what took you so long?"
PRESIDENT BUSH, honoring the Boston Red Sox for their first World Series championship in 86 years

"I think he's one of the biggest political hacks we have in Washington."
SEN. HARRY REID, Democratic leader, on Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan

"We are not enemies. We are not allies. We are not agents. We hope one day we will be friends."
MUAMMAR QADHAFI, Libyan leader, calling for an opening in diplomatic relations between Tripoli and Washington

"If Kazakhstan can eliminate lead from gasoline, why can't NASCAR?"
FRANK O'DONNELL, of Clean Air Watch, protesting NASCAR's use of leaded gas

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Baltimore Sun on Inhofe tax quest

Audit the messenger?
Originally published March 1, 2005


IF CLEANER AIR is the objective, Congress would make more progress doing nothing than by enacting President Bush's "Clear Skies" proposal, according to state and local air-quality regulators.
The group's recommendation to the Senate that it ditch Mr. Bush's proposal in favor of existing Clean Air Act requirements was not only in conflict with but potentially embarrassing to the administration and Republican leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Thus, Committee Chairman James M. Inhofe's request a few days later for financial and tax information from the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators and the related Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials (STAPPA/ALAPCO) looked for all the world like bullying.
Only in hindsight, though, contends a spokesman for Senator Inhofe, who said the request was part of a 10-month investigation of organizations that get federal grant money. Despite its timing, the spokesman called the probe unrelated to STAPPA/ALAPCO's opposition to "Clear Skies."
But the clumsy tactic by an Oklahoma Republican known for staunch support of his state's energy industry has boomeranged on him by spotlighting legislation designed as a payoff to polluters.
Billed as an update of the Clean Air Act, which was last amended in 1990 to deal with acid rain, the "Clear Skies" proposal would instead gut current pollution protections. It would postpone deadlines by up to seven years for cleaning the air in the nation's largest cities, put off reductions of mercury pollution from power plants by nearly a decade, weaken the requirement that new coal-fired utility plants install the latest technology, and eliminate safeguards to protect and improve air quality at national parks.
What's more, the measure makes no attempt to regulate carbon dioxide despite what scientists believe to be its primary role in advancing global warming.
"Really quite a sweetheart deal," observed Sen. James M. Jeffords, a Vermont independent. "All of the permits or allowances to pollute are handed out to industry for free."
And just as the Environmental Protection Agency is about to impose the long-delayed Interstate Rule, which allows states to protect their citizens from upwind power plant pollution, Senator Inhofe is working furiously to win approval for legislation that would void the effort.
"Clear Skies" is so bad, Mr. Inhofe has not yet been able to muster enough votes to get it out of his committee, despite a GOP majority. He's scheduled to try again tomorrow.
Senator Jeffords, Rhode Island Republican Lincoln Chafee and other environmental advocates on the committee say they are willing to compromise but not to go backward from current law.
Standing firm may require courage, however. Polluting industries see this as a moment when the stars are finally aligned to do away with costly impediments to their business.
If their arsenal is unleashed, a financial audit could seem like a flesh wound.