Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Money Talks! Is it mere coincidence… or are oily campaign contributions greasing today’s congressional attacks against tougher smog standards?

Those of you who have followed this issue are well aware that in 2008, the US EPA set national ozone (smog) standards weaker than recommended by EPA’s independent science advisers, who warned that the weaker standards hurt breathers.  And that in 2011, the timid Obama White House – under political pressure from the oil industry – killed an EPA attempt to update the standards to better protect public health.

Now that EPA is again examining the issue, the oil industry is ramping up a new campaign.  The strategy appears to be a preemptive strike designed to scare the White House yet again. And  the oil industry appears to be using some its friends on Capitol Hill to lead the assault.

And many of the oil industry arguments were repeated today at a House Science Committee hearing by Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Subcommittee Chair Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT).

Almost simultaneously across Capitol Hill – as if it were a coordinated campaign! – similar comments were made by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) at a Senate confirmation hearing on the new White House Regulatory “Czar.”

(You will recall that the old “Czar,” Cass Sunstein, had a big hand in killing the EPA smog effort in 2011.)

What do Smith, Stewart and Johnson all have in common?  All have been recipients of campaign cash from the oil industry, led by the notoriously anti-regulatory Koch Industries.  See below for a quick summary of recent contributions.
Are these elected officials bought -- or merely rented for the day?  Several things are clear: they are definitely friends of the oil industry.  And they were extraordinarily well versed in the industry's arguments against tougher smog standards.  You might want to draw your own conclusions.
Campaign contributions to Chris Stewart:   in 2012 race,


 $5,000 from ExxonMobil 

$5,000 from Koch Industries

$5,000 from Tesoro

$5,000 from Sinclair Companies

in 2013, $1,000 from Koch Industries


Campaign contributions to Lamar Smith, 2012 race:


$10,000 from Koch Industries

$10,000 from Valero

$6,000 from Tesoro

$5,000 from ExxonMobil

$2,000 from Chevron


Meanwhile, at a separate hearing, Politico reported that

Sen. Ron Johnson urged Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs nominee Howard Shelanski to put a new focus on the “unintended consequences” of regulations, and he took swipe at EPA for pushing ozone rules.

“These regulations are well-intended. I think all of government is well-intended,” Johnson said at Shelanski’s nomination hearing. “But as we continue to throw more and more government at problems, you do reach that point of diminishing returns. I think that’s also something that OIRA could really be taking a look at is each layer of these regulations.”

Johnson continued: “I’ll throw one out there: ozone regulations. We get it down to 75 parts per million — I guess there must be an office of ozone regulation at EPA — and they must be sitting around their office going, ‘Well, now what do we do?’ I’m afraid the reaction is, 'Let’s knock it down to 65 parts per million’ at a cost of maybe a trillion dollars and I don’t know what the benefit of that would be. So we really need to take a look at unintended consequences.”

Campaign contribution to 
Senator Ron Johnson , 2007-2012


$25,650 from Koch Industries



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