Clean Air Villain of the Month

September 2002


Lobby Forms 'Flying Wedge' To Block
For Bush Plan to Weaken Clean Air Act

The nonprofit Clean Air Trust today named the National Association of Manufacturers the Clean Air "villain of the month" for September 2002.

The manufacturing lobby earned this dubious distinction by "forming the lobbying equivalent of a flying wedge to help the Bush Administration jam through a plan to weaken the Clean Air Act," explained , executive director of the Trust.

"The manufacturers seek to knock aside any effort to stop the Bush plan," said O'Donnell. "This crackback-blocking effort confirms our worst suspicions -- that the Bush plan really would be a dirty-air touchdown for the big polluters."

The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to announce changes that would weaken a key enforcement tool in the law called "new source review," which requires old smokestack industries to update their pollution controls if they undergo a major change that would boost pollution. The EPA plan, developed with the support of the manufacturing lobby, would permit many more industrial plants to increase pollution without any controls. (The Clinton Administration examined a more modest "reform" plan, but the manufacturing lobby sacked it for being too environmentally friendly. Former EPA Administrator Carol Browner recently told a Senate committee that, by contrast, the Bush plan would be a significant environmental rollback.)

Despite requests by three separate Senate committees, EPA has refused to produce any analysis of the impact of these changes on air quality. (And no wonder: as one well-informed EPA official told us confidentially last week, "It's pretty hard to defend what we are doing.")

EPA's stonewalling approach has prompted United States Senators, led by Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), to explore possible use of the federal budget process to block EPA from weakening the law.

Enter the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), which formed the flying wedge to knock aside any Senate attempt to tackle the EPA plan. Last week, NAM put out a frantic alert: "ACTION NEEDED: A Senate vote could occur this month! Please urge your senators to oppose all efforts to block or delay EPA's NSR reforms. In addition, please inform your senator of the reasons why NSR reform is needed for business certainty, energy security and environmental quality. Please call or e-mail your Senator to urge them to vote against any appropriations rider that attempts to delay this process."

NAM also distributed astro-turf letters to be sent from companies to Senate offices, as well as misleading "talking points." (Samples of misleading rhetoric: NAM alleges falsely that current rules block "environmentally beneficial projects." It also implies that state lawmakers support their position. In fact, state lawmakers have made it clear they oppose weakening changes that could lead to increased pollution or a reduction in state authorities -- two elements of the NAM-backed Bush plan.)

As the dirty-air lobby and EPA political appointees jointly march towards the goal line, defenders of the Clean Air Act need to remember -- this issue IS about defending the integrity of the Clean Air Act from this sooty offensive.