Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chicken Little Comes to Washington

Having witnessed the ebb and flow of environmental policy for more years than I prefer to remember, I must say that even I am shocked by the outlandish hyperbole being trotted out these days by polluters visiting Capitol Hill.

I will give you two current examples.

This morning, the lead witness at the hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was the National Association of Manufacturers, which declared that tougher new national smog standards would be a “trillion dollar mistake.”

Yes, the hearing should have been named Chicken Little Comes to Washington.

NAM has a long history of making dire predictions that don’t pan out. In 1997 this business lobby and groups it funded made the absurd claims that then-pending EPA standards for smog and soot would lead to such things as forced car pooling and bans on gasoline lawn mowers and barbeque grills – even hair spray!!

NAM was dead wrong then and is dead wrong today. (The world is still safe for Aquanet and Paul Mitchell hair products.) Just so it’s clear, virtually the entire nation -- with the exception of California -- now meets those smog standards and NAM has been proven wrong. I hate to think that Clean Air Watch is the only organization with a memory.

The EPA should move ahead with tougher smog standards, unanimously endorsed by the agency’s science advisers, because science now shows that people can get sick and die early at currently permissible smog levels. This should be a no brainer. Those in Congress who seek to interfere with EPA should busy themselves with what they do best – collecting money from the polluting lobby. Let EPA do its job.

And speaking of gross polluter hyperbole, the coal lobby is shopping around Capitol Hill a presentation which predicts “disaster” for the Midwest if the EPA moves forward with plans to clean up mercury and other dangerous pollution from coal-fired power plants. This scare-mongering presentation goes so far as to predict that clean-air controls could drive unemployment to “depression-era levels” as well as bankrupt cities and interfere with President Obama’s trade goals.

Now something makes me suspect this crowd doesn’t really want to promote the President’s policies, but it does want to intimidate him in six key states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania) that will be battlegrounds in the next election.

I hope the White House will be smart enough to take heed of other studies, such as the one released this week by CERES, which note properly that cleaning up dirty coal-fired power plants will actually be a plus for job creation.

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