Monday, January 30, 2006

The week ahead: mark your calendars

There are some obvious items this week. (For instance, the President’s State of the Union Address and its expected mention of energy issues – expect an interesting presidential two-step in light of Exxon Mobil’s surging profits announced today.)

But please also be on the lookout for some specific clean-air news this week. A few notes on this below.

It isn’t just Ground Hog day… Mark your calendar for Thursday, Feb. 2, as state and local clean-air regulators poke their heads out with a new report about the pollution and related health effects from diesel trains and boats. You may find the results shocking.

This story is of obvious relevance to port cities ranging from Seattle to Miami, but it also ought to stir up interest anywhere with a train track. The report will be unveiled at an event in DC, starting at 12:45 pm EST: Hall of the States, 444 North Capitol Street, NW, Room 333. For folks outside DC, there will be a call-in number at (800) 376-6136, access code 835828#. An all-start lineup of health and environmental experts will also be present. A formal advisory should be out by tomorrow.

Speaking of diesel: My colleagues with the Clean Air Task Force have rightly earned a reputation for understanding the risk of cancer from diesel engines as well as from other chemicals in the air. They are on the alert this week for a new federal assessment of this issue. I will try to alert you, but please keep in your rolodex the phone # for CATF Advocacy Director Conrad Schneider: (207) 721-8676, e-mail

Feb. 2 is also the day the U.S. EPA is supposed to complete a report about the potential risk of fires if lawnmowers were equipped with baby catalytic converters. (We believe this is a bogus issue.) You may recall that Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) blocked EPA from setting new standards for dirty small engines pending completion of this study. Bond, as we all know, has been carrying water for engine maker Briggs & Stratton. BNA’s Daily Environment Report reports today that Briggs & Stratton last week reiterated its opposition to new EPA standards – putting it in opposition to four other engine makers, including Honda.

As we noted last week, Briggs & Stratton has another congressional champion, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the frontrunner in the race to succeed Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) as House Republican Majority Leader. That election will also take place on Feb. 2. As we noted, Blunt’s top fundraiser, lobbyist Gregg Hartley, lobbies for Briggs & Stratton. We expect Blunt and Bond to continue squeezing EPA on behalf of Briggs & Stratton. The result will be continued unnecessary levels of smog.

On Feb. 3, the EPA’s science advisors will meet to discuss their formal response, if any, to EPA’s proposed new standards for particle pollution. You will recall that the chair of the EPA science panel has been publicly critical of EPA’s decision to propose a weaker standard than that endorsed by the panel.

The meeting will take place from 1-5 p.m, EST. You can listen in at: 866-299-3188. Access number: 202-343-9994#

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