Monday, October 23, 2006

Supreme Court Countdown: the Polluter Propaganda War HEATS UP

Only a little more than a week until the Supreme Court hears one of its biggest environmental cases – an appeal by my friends at Environmental Defense of a lower court ruling that would legitimize more pollution from coal-burning electric power plants.

(ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. DUKE ENERGY CORPORATION, ET AL.)

With the Nov. 1 oral arguments right around the corner, the propaganda war is really heating up, with a Capitol Hill briefing tomorrow that, by all appearances, will be used as a platform for polluter propaganda.

It recalls the old Jerome Kern song, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” famously recorded by The Platters. See a little context for this briefing, below.


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We are informed that tomorrow morning (October 24), there will be a briefing on a “new study” about the potential impacts on rural America should Environmental Defense win its case. The briefing will feature the study’s main author, one Bernard Weinstein, director of the University of North Texas Institute of Applied Economics

It should be no surprise if the study concludes that requiring more pollution cleanup will mean higher electricity prices and ensuing trouble in farm country. (I’ll leave it to Environmental Defense to elaborate on that fact that less pollution cleanup will mean more death and disease.)

A few factoids might be useful in putting this briefing into context:

Re-wind the tape! Weinstein released a similar (or perhaps identical?) “study” at a different Capitol Hill briefing in 2002 as an attempt to justify efforts by the Bush administration to weaken clean-air requirements:

http://216.239.51.104/search?q=cache:48VJGLBSTVgJ:www.scienceblog.com/community/older/archives/K/2/pub2648.html+%22bernard+weinstein%22+and+coal&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=2

That Weinstein study was then used by the National Center for Public Policy Research, a notorious reactionary and industry-funded pro-Bush “think tank,” to support weakening of clean-air controls. (The center converted it into what it called a “TEN SECOND RESPONSE: President Bush should use the findings from this study to put common sense rules in place to maintain clean air without raising electricity prices and putting people out of work.” http://www.nationalcenter.org/TSR51502.html )

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Who’s the client here? Weinstein is also director of an organization called the Center for Economic Development and Research, which essentially functions as a consulting firm with the veneer of a university label. http://www.unt.edu/cedr/aboutus.htm

The center and Weinstein have had many interesting clients over the years. For example, the University of North Texas actually boasts that in 1997, Weinstein was retained by a coalition of investor-owned utilities, including TXU and Reliant, to help make the case for electricity deregulation in Texas.

http://72.14.209.104/search?q=cache:wEg6qGBmmJoJ:www.unt.edu/resource/previousissues/20012002/economicindicators.htm+%22bernard+weinstein%22+and+coal&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=3

Texas authorities are now investigating the impacts of deregulation. Interestingly, just last week, Texas regulators identified TXU Wholesale as a company under investigation for possible Enron-style attempts to manipulate wholesale power markets.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/DN-txu_21bus.ART.State.Edition2.3ef8f5f.html

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Coal or nuclear? Or does it depend on who’s paying? Weinstein apparently will defend coal burning in tomorrow’s briefing, but earlier this year, he had some pretty negative things to say about coal while circulating an op-ed commentary in support of nuclear power. See the Aug. 11, 2006 Denver Business Journal at http://216.239.51.104/search?q=cache:hUu5m2YU4mkJ:denver.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2006/08/14/editorial2.html+%22bernard+weinstein%22+and+coal&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=8

“While the nation's 600 coal-fired power plants produce 36 percent of all U.S. emissions and nearly 10 percent of global greenhouse gases, nuclear power generation is environmentally benign…

“Even the 1979 incident at Three Mile Island resulted in no injuries or deaths to plant workers or nearby residents. Can the U.S. coal industry say the same?”

It’s a well-crafted piece. You’d almost think it was written by the Nuclear Energy Institute (another of Weinstein’s listed clients http://www.unt.edu/cedr/blwbio.htm ) – or someone on NEI’s nickel.

Perhaps the Center for Economic Development and Research should rename itself: “Money Talks.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For an interesting article dealing with the Duke Energy case see: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=877544