The editorial page of the Dallas Morning News once gave Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) the moniker "Smokey Joe" -- and did he ever live up to that name today?
At a congressional hearing designed to lay the groundwork for an effort to delay critical EPA toxic pollution standards, Barton made the truly astonishing assertion that reducing emissions of toxic mercury, sulfur dioxide and particle soot would not bring health benefits.
Though conceding he is "not a medical doctor," Barton was quick to offer some sweeping medical conclusions, based on his "hypothesis."
"I think the EPA numbers [that EPA's toxic pollution standards for power plants could reduce up to 17,000 premature deaths a year] are pulled out of thin air," claimed Barton. "There is absolutely nothing to back it up."
Barton went on to assert that the toxic emissions were causing "no medical negative." And so, according to his logic, reducing the pollution would bring no quantifiable benefits.
Barton said he had heard no evidence of "mercury poisoning" at any of the factories or power plants operated by various hearing witnesses.
I guess he forgot that the people most in risk of getting poisoned -- babies -- don't work in factories.
This is pretty appalling stuff, since Barton and colleagues will probably soon be voting on legislation to delay toxic pollution cleanup.
See for yourself as Barton questions our friend, John Walke, from NRDC at about 1:25 into the video here: http://bit.ly/gXec2H