Friday, April 14, 2006

News notes: a marathon surprise, thank you for emitting, and more...

A few things to keep an eye out for in the near future.

A marathon surprise? Next Monday isn’t just the Boston Marathon – it’s the milestone in a different sort of marathon. It’s the close of the public comment period on EPA’s controversial particle soot proposal. Yes, you can be sure that the “usual suspects” such as the American Lung Association, Clean Air Watch and other health and environmental groups will urge EPA to set better standards. But I am told surprise comments are coming as well. Let’s talk on Monday!

Clean air benefits: Speaking of fine particle soot, the White House Office of Management and Budget has just completed a draft report on the costs and benefits of federal regulations. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/inforeg/reports/2006_draft_cost_benefit_report.pdf

It’s no surprise to us that clean air standards produce more recorded benefits than any other federal rules assessed. Notes OMB: “The majority of the large estimated benefits of EPA rules are attributable to the reduction in public exposure to a single air pollutant: fine particulate matter.”

Given these findings, it’s both ironic and duplicitous that the White House is fighting to prevent particle soot standards that would reflect the latest scientific research. If they did this honestly, new standards would produce even bigger monetary benefits in the form of fewer deaths and less disease.

Mowing maneuvers: The Associated Press reported this week that the Briggs & Stratton Corp. and their Washington spokesman, Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, will continue to fight efforts by the EPA to set new clean-air standards for lawn mowers and other dirty small engines. And now EPA has announced it will hold a public meeting May 5 in Ann Arbor, MI, to permit further scrutiny of an EPA study (demanded by Bond at Briggs & Stratton’s request) which concluded that putting small catalytic converters on lawn mowers would not pose a safety concern. Expect the B&S team and its front-group surrogates to book their flights today.

As AP noted, Briggs & Stratton is paying for its own study of this issue – one that is predestined to come to a different conclusion than EPA’s assessment. When you see “code orange” and “code red’ notices this summer, you can thank Kit Bond and his corporate sponsor for continuing to delay the cleanup.

Scientific charlatans: I was struck this week by a release which noted that a group called The Annapolis Center will give an award later this month to Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) http://releases.usnewswire.com/GetRelease.asp?id=63873 who wears one of the blackest anti-environmental hats in Congress. This “center” gave a similar award last year to another alleged environmental champion, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), so at least it is consistent in dishing out awards to the most vile elements in Congress. Maybe Kit Bond will win next year.

As you have probably guessed, this “center” is a corporate-backed front group that seeks to give what the spinmeisters call “third-party” cover to rotten political decisions. John Fialka of the Wall Street Journal did a wonderful expose on this group in 1997, noting that its money came from member companies of the National Association of Manufacturers who, at the time, were trying to use the center to block – what else? – better standards for fine particle soot.

Thank you for emitting: And finally (for now), E Magazine has a terrific interview with my sometime debate partner, Frank Maisano. Read this, and you realize that the movie, “Thank You for Smoking,” is really a documentary. http://www.emagazine.com/view/?3151

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