Tuesday, June 06, 2006

News notes: congressional junketers take a break, spring smog update, and more...

Top travelers: In reading the new report by the Center for Public Integrity http://www.publicintegrity.org/powertrips/report.aspx?aid=248 it almost hard to believe that members of the House of Representatives are actually in Washington, DC this week.

If you’ve read or heard about this excellent report, you know that some of our leaders are spending quite a bit of time on the road, with expenses paid by special interests. Among the top travelers – with him or someone from his office making more than 200 junkets in the past 5 years and receiving more than $350,000 in paid trips, was Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX.) The Dallas Morning News once christened him “Smokey Joe” but maybe they’ll re-name him “Travelin’ Joe” after this disclosure.

Fume fraud: Of course, one reason Barton and his colleagues are “back at work” is because the public is fuming over higher gasoline prices. And so our congressional leaders are moving forward on several pieces of energy legislation ostensibly designed to lower prices at the pump. Unfortunately, they are moving in the wrong direction – with suggested new laws aimed at limiting the right of states regarding permits for refineries and clean fuels. For a commentary on the refinery issue – likely to pass the House this week on largely partisan lines, please note http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/06/06/no_new_refineries.php Rep. Barton is holding a hearing on the “boutique fuel” issue tomorrow morning.

CAFÉ clash: A number of state attorneys general are worried about yet another attack on states’ rights – suggested changes by the Bush administration to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. Of particular concern is what appears to be an effort to head off law suits by states against the administration’s recent rules for light trucks. (Ten states have sued the federal government because those light trucks standards did not evaluate the impact of the standards on foreign oil or on climate change.) More on this as it develops…

Sooty Senator: We understand that Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) tentatively plans a hearing next week on EPA’s particle soot proposal. It appears as if the motivation is to fire a shot across the proverbial bow – in case EPA was thinking of tightening the unscientifically weak standards the agency proposed last December. Voinovich’s power company supporters have urged no change in the current standards.

Spring Smog: Though summer hasn’t officially begun, the smog has. And our Clean Air Watch volunteers are diligently tracking trends across the country. Though a cool spring in much of the country helped keep smog levels generally somewhat lower than last year, we note than 21 states and the District of Columbia did have unhealthful levels of smog during April or May. See below for a list of states. Please contact us if you want details for your state.

States with unhealthful levels of smog during April or May:

North Carolina
District of Columbia
New Jersey
West Virginia
South Carolina
New York

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