Clean Air Villain of the Month

July 2002

Lead Big-Rig Blitz Against Clean Air

(Washington, DC, July 9, 2002) - The nonprofit Clean Air Trust today named the American Trucking Associations and Caterpillar Inc. as the clean air "villains of the month" for July 2002.

The groups were cited for "mobilizing a big-rig blitz" against tougher pollution standards for trucks, noted , executive director of the Trust.

"Caterpillar and the trucking association have teamed up to form what might be described as an axle of evil," said O'Donnell.

"They've gone to the White House, they've gone to Congress, and they've gone to court," said O'Donnell. "It's a classic case of behind-closed doors Washington lobbying." He added "the entire national effort to clean up dirty diesel trucks may be at risk."

At issue are tougher emission standards due to take effect in October of this year for diesel engine companies that signed a consent agreement in 1998. The consent agreement settled Justice Department allegations that the engine companies systematically evaded emission standards by installing devices that turned off pollution controls while trucks were on the highway.

As part of the legal settlement, the companies pledged to meet tougher standards -- initially due to take effect in 2004 -- by October. The companies also agreed to pay a "noncomformance penalty," to be determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, if they failed to meet the new standards.

In April, the EPA officially certified that one of the companies -- Cummins -- had manufactured an engine that met the tough new standards.

Almost immediately, Caterpillar went on the warpath. Caterpillar has said it will not meet the new standards by October and is now trying to block EPA from levying penalties. As part of its lobbying blitz, Caterpillar has gone to court, seeking to have EPA's approval of the Cummins engine invalidated. (It's as if WorldCom, having been exposed for accounting fraud, responded by trying to get the government to punish AT&T for being successful.)

Caterpillar has also prevailed on 33 members of Congress, including Ray Lahood (R-IL), to contact EPA on Caterpillar's behalf. (Caterpillar has already dished out more than $150,000 in PAC campaign contributions in this election cycle, including $5,000 to Lahood, whose Peoria district is home to Caterpillar's headquarters. Of the 33 members of Congress, fully 30 of them received PAC contributions from either Caterpillar or the American Trucking Associations in the last two campaign cycles.)

The politically well-connected American Trucking Associations has joined the Caterpillar effort. (Registered lobbyists for the trucking association include Haley Barbour, former head of the Republican National Committee, and Alison McSlarrow, former deputy chief of staff for then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MI), and wife of Kyle McSlarrow, deputy Secretary of Energy.)

The trucking association formally petitioned EPA to reconsider the truck standards on June 19 -- the same day as the massive "President's Dinner" Republican fundraiser. (The trucking association donated $100,000 at the same dinner a year ago. This year's figures aren't available yet.) One week later, the trucking association wrote to President Bush and asked him to delay the new clean air standards.

The Justice Department has already rebuffed the Caterpillar request to delay the October deadline. Will the President, or Congress, intervene?