Clean Air Villain of the Month

April 2002


Provides Cover for Bush Effort to Weaken Clean Air Act

(Washington, DC, April 9, 2002) - This is a first for us -- and an uncomfortable first at that.

Since we began handing out "villain of the month" awards in 1999, the Clean Air Trust has designated such big polluters as American Electric Power and General Motors; politicians including Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO); and polluter-friendly "think tanks" such as American Enterprise Institute-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies.

Never have we pointed the finger at a fellow public interest group.

Until now.

Our villain of the month for April 2002 is The Adirondack Council, headquartered in New York.

Why, you might ask, are we singling out an environmental organization noted for its advocacy of protecting the Adirondack Mountains?

Because the Adirondack Council has broken ranks with other environmental groups and is supporting the Bush Administration's so-called "clear skies" initiative. In the process, the Council is providing cover for the administration's efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act.

The administration wants to eliminate current Clean Air Act requirements for electric power plants, including new source review, regional haze standards, toxic pollution control requirements, and authority for states to reduce interstate pollution. Separately, the administration is moving to weaken pollution control requirements for refineries and other factories. These big sources of pollution would be permitted to pollute more under the administration's plans.

That's why every other credible environmental organization in the nation that deals with air pollution is opposing the administration plan.

But it's not just environmentalists who worry about the dirty-air implications of the administration's initiative. Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Nicholas A. Di Pasquale has accused the administration of trying to "gut" key pollution control rules.

"There are absolutely no safeguards in the plan to prevent New Jersey from being a dumping ground for upwind pollution," added Bradley Campbell, commissioner for the New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection.

The Adirondack Council apparently feels differently. Just last Friday, the council's acting executive director appeared with EPA Administrator Christie Whitman at an event in upstate New York -- while other environmental and health groups showed up to protest! In editorial board meetings, the council also appears to have taken shots at national environmental groups -- and indirectly at environmental champions such as New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

It's not the first time the council has been the proverbial skunk at the garden party. Last October, when Senator James Jeffords (I-VT) convened a "stakeholders' meeting" to examine multi-pollutant legislation, the council broke ranks with other environmental groups and undercut Jeffords' efforts by saying it would accept more pollution than Jeffords' was seeking to allow.

No wonder Midwestern electric power companies such as AEP and Cinergy have resisted Jeffords' efforts; the Adirondack Council indirectly has given them comfort and support -- since these polluting companies sat and watched as the council undercut Jeffords.

We don't want to speculate on the council's motives. And we think it has done extremely valuable work in the past.

However, when it comes to this issue, reporters ought to realize that the Adirondack Council is way out of step with other environmental groups.

We can only hope the council will reconsider the political damage it is causing.