Thursday, May 11, 2006

News notes: is it the Colbert Report? Front groups are blooming, and other matters...

I don’t know if it’s because America is reeling because rocker Chris Daughtry got the boot from “American Idol,” or perhaps because too many lawn mower fumes are fouling the air (see more, below), but the nation’s capital is blooming with new front groups promoting dirty air and energy development.

More on this, and other matters below.

Would Americans Want Non-American Energy? Front group number one was unveiled yesterday – Americans for American Energy. No, this is not a spoof by Stephen Colbert, but it would be easy to think so.

The web site has scary pictures of Osama, etc. in order to provide political cover for companies that want to drill for oil in Alaska and mine and burn more coal.

If this seems like a page from the Bush-Cheney drill-and-burn energy playbook, well, it is! And no wonder. The group is headed by Jim Sims, former press spokesman for the secretive Cheney energy task force and the guy who organizes the Annual Business Festival of Access Buying in Arizona, where business leaders booze it up and golf with their favorite members of Congress and the Bush administration.

Tobacco-Style Research -- or Just Blowing Smoke? We have begun investigating front group number two -- The Scientific Integrity Institute which appears to be an electric power industry-funded effort to undermine US EPA attempts to set better air pollution standards for deadly fine particle pollution.

The “Institute” appears to be run by UCLA researcher James Enstrom, who became notorious several years ago for publishing a study which concluded there was no health risk associated with second-hand smoking. (See at ) Enstrom’s study was panned by mainstream researchers, who noted that it was funded by the tobacco industry.

Undaunted by the controversy, Enstrom is at it again – this time with a new study which challenges the link between fine particle soot and premature death in California. And once again (in the June issue of the scientific publication Inhalation Toxicology), other researchers are saying that Enstrom is just blowing smoke. This issue is probably worth further investigation since the electric power industry is using Enstrom’s study as an argument against better particle pollution standards.

Farmers for Clean Air? Actually the name of this front group is Farmers for Clean Air and Water. As near as we can tell, it is aimed at making sure the Superfund law is never applied to giant agri-businesses.

As for the track record of agriculture and clean air, we’ve reported previously on opposition by farm groups to better fine-particle pollution standards. (See at ). Some farm groups are also arguing in favor of weakening clean-air standards for ethanol refineries. Clean Air Watch has joined other groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Dakota Resource Council and the state and local clean-air regulators in opposing weaker standards. We have more on this if you need it.

Speaking of Phonies, you may have noticed that the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday rejected efforts to set better fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles. But, by a narrow 28-26 vote, the panel did approve the Bush administration strategy of giving the federal Transportation Department authority to set better standards. Since the administration already has the authority to do this, this legislation can best be viewed as a cynical effort to fool a gullable public (See above on Chris Daughtry.) It coincides with newspaper advertisements by auto companies, which are obviously trying to change the subject and defuse any real effort to improve fuel economy.

Symbolic, or a Sign on Global Warming? In a little-noticed move elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the House Appropriations Committee yesterday endorsed a resolution that urges Congress to develop an overall emissions cap on global warming emissions. As noted today in Environment & Energy Daily, the resolution mirrors a resolution, championed by Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) approved last year by the Senate. This House resolution likely will be killed by Senate appropriators, but this vote is another sign that limits on global warming pollution are coming. (Last week’s decision by conservative Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to co-sponsor the power plant legislation developed by Senator Tom Carper (D-DEL) is another sign of this trend.) It’s only a matter of time. Watch for some real fireworks in the next Congress.

Mowing Matters: Next Monday, Clean Air Watch will be among those attending an EPA meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the agency’s recent study of lawn mowers and safety. Folks who have followed this issue will recall that California regulators and the EPA have both worked towards setting new clean-air standards for lawn mowers and other small engines. Those standards have been vigorously opposed by Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) – whom the St. Louis Post-Dispatch refers to as “Senator Smog” – and the Briggs & Stratton Corporation. Following recent publicity on this issue – from news outlets ranging from the Ecotalk radio show to the New York Times and the CBS Evening News, Briggs & Stratton appears to be taking a lower profile, hiding, as it were, behind the gas can of the Outdoor Equipment Power Institute, of which B&S is a member.

1 comment:

Chepe said...

Speaking of Mowing Matters...

Briggs is also funneling money through the shell OPEI "foundation" that was set up due to the opposition of some of OPEI's other members to Briggs and Stratton's strong arm tactics. The money is paying for a competing lawn mower safety study by a Swedish research institute that is connected with Washington Lobbiest Peter Sparber (of Tobbaco and methyl bromide lobbying fame). Sparber has made quite a business out of using fire marshalls to lobby for the Tobbaco Institute and the Great Lakes Chemical Corporation.