Clean Air Villain of the Month

March 2000


(Washington, D.C. March 3, 2000) - The nonprofit Clean Air Trust today awarded its clean air "Villain of the Month" award for March to a secretive and deceptive group that calls itself "Republicans for Clean Air."

The Trust also challenged the group to reveal its sources of funding, and to debate the Sierra Club on the clean-air credentials of the various candidates for President.

"It's time to clear the air -- time for 'Republicans for Clean Air' to come out of the shadows and debate the facts," said , executive director of the Clean Air Trust. [Following the Trust's challenge, "Republicans for Clean Air" made its identity public. It was created by Dallas businessman Sam Wyly, a major figure in Texas Republican politics, who has contributed heavily to the campaigns of Texas Governor George W. Bush. Wyly is also chairman of, a company that purports to offer consumers electricity produced from renewable energy sources.]

The challenge was issued after "Republicans for Clean Air" began a multi-million dollar television advertising campaign attacking the environmental record of presidential candidate John McCain, while praising the clean-air record of Texas Gov. George W. Bush. The ads have begun running in at least three states: New York, California and Ohio, which all have "Super Tuesday" primary elections March 7.

The Washington Post linked "Republicans for Clean Air" to a Republican consultant who serves as treasurer for a political action committee "heavily promoted by the GOP congressional leadership and financed by Republican-leaning business owners, particularly in Texas."

The commercial's accuracy -- and Gov. Bush's environmental record -- has been assailed by both the Sierra Club and by the League of Conservation Voter (LCV). See Sierra Club critique below. The LCV release can be found at

In addition, O'Donnell noted that representatives of Gov. Bush have been lobbying Congress to weaken the Clean Air Act to permit more highway construction without regard to the consequences for air pollution.

LCV has noted that Sen. McCain's environmental record has been less than stellar. He has earned a 20 percent lifetime environmental voting record. However, O'Donnell did note that in two critical Senate floor votes on the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, McCain voted -- along with then-Senators Al Gore and Bill Bradley -- for the pro-clean air position.

Here is a Sierra Club critique of the commercial:

The ad is littered with half-truths:

HALF-TRUTH: "[Bush] led one of the first states to clamp down on old coal-burning electric plants."

TRUTH: That half-truth is referring to "grandfathered" plants built before 1972, which are not subject to the Texas' clean air laws. Bush "clamped down" on those grandfathered plants with a voluntary plan that was written by industry. According to Time, the result of Bush's voluntary policy is "only 33 of the 160 biggest industrial plants have volunteered. Of those 33, only three have taken steps to cut their emissions. Questioned about this during his interview with Time, Bush became irritated." (2-21-00)

The Dallas Morning News concluded that "[Bush's] voluntary anti-pollution initiatives have produced only marginal improvements." (11-14-99) Furthermore, the bill that deals with these plants, Senate Bill 7, only affects 2 of Texas' 18 grandfathered plants.

HALF-TRUTH: "New York Republicans care about clear air. So does Governor Bush."

TRUTH: One of New York's biggest environmental victories this year has been the state's lawsuit against Midwestern coal-burning plants, which was eventually joined by the EPA. However, lawsuits which protect New Yorkers are likely to be opposed by a Bush Administration. In a November interview, he told The New York Times, "the best way to achieve clean air and water was 'to not try to sue our way or regulate our way to clean air and clean water.'" (11-9-99)

"The truth is that there is no way to spin the Bush record on air pollution in Texas," said Holmes. "Texas is No. 1 in toxic releases, No. 1 in total toxic air emissions from industrial facilities, No. 1 in toxic chemical accidents, No. 1 in cancer-causing pollution. And in 1999, Houston became the Smog Capital of the United States, grabbing the No. 1 spot from Los Angeles."