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Friday, December 17, 2004

Bush Administration Gives Polluters Early Christmas Present

(Washington, DC. December 17, 2004) – Many big polluters received an early Christmas present today, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified areas around the nation that it says need to reduce dangerous particle soot pollution, according to the non-profit Clean Air Watch.

Clean Air Watch President Frank O’Donnell said the EPA omitted many areas with big smokestack polluters that are harming public health.

“In effect, the EPA gave these big polluters an early Christmas present,” O’Donnell said.

He noted that microscopic soot particles cause heart and lung problems and have been linked to tens of thousands of premature deaths each year.

“There is an urgent need to clean up the biggest sources of particle soot, including coal-fired electric power plants and existing dirty diesel engines,” O’Donnell said.

EPA’s list of dirty-air areas -- the so-called “designations” -- is crucial, because it becomes the driving force behind cleanup of power plants, diesel engines, and other sources of microscopic soot. States are required to draw up plans to meet the new standards.

Our friends at Clear the Air (they did the work on this and deserve the credit) have developed a comprehensive list of electric power plants that would get off the hook.

O’Donnell noted this was the second time within a week that the Bush administration gave big polluters a huge break.

O’Donnell noted that EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt bowed to polluter-generated pressure from the White House and delayed rules designed to reduce pollution that crosses from one state to another. The Bush administration put those rules on ice in order to promote its regressive “clear skies” initiative in Congress.

“It is deplorable that EPA has delayed new clean-air requirements that would have made progress in cleaning up power plants,” O’Donnell said.

Earlier this week, EPA released a report which showed recent improvement in particle soot. The report concluded that further progress could be made if EPA moved forward with the proposed rules designed to reduce interstate pollution.

“The tragic irony here is that EPA’s career experts correctly noted that moving forward with these standards would help us make progress in protecting public health,” O’Donnell said. “Instead, the White House decided to play footsy with big polluters, and to play politics with peoples’ health.”

Clean Air Watch was recently incorporated as a non-profit organization to function as a watchdog on clean-air issues. It is headed by Frank O’Donnell, formerly executive director of the Clean Air Trust.

[Our web site is under development at http://www.cleanairwatch.org/. Please check in soon for updates.]

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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Introducing Clean Air Watch

Dear friends,

Many of you may recall me from nearly a decade that I spent as executive director of Clean Air Trust. I want to update your address books and generally make you aware of a new organization – Clean Air Watch, which was officially incorporated as a non-profit this month.

I hope that we can be of service to you as some in Congress take dead aim at the Clean Air Act, while all of us try to puzzle out what’s really going in at the U.S. EPA and related government agencies. Please do not hesitate to e-mail or call if we can help. (We should have at least one additional phone line up and running within a few days. You can always reach me at 202-302-2065.)

Clean Air Watch intends to closely monitor clean-air and climate policy and to present a public-interest perspective. Those of you who know me also know this perspective will be grounded in fact and analysis, not just a lot of hot air. We hope to educate the public about the value of clean air (and related developments in science regarding air and climate), and to raise the alarm when miscreants attempt dirty deeds in the dark. (I don’t think any of us will be lacking material!)

By the sound of things, our early focus will be on helping mobilize the public against attempts in Congress to weaken the law. Of course, there will be another flurry of activity later this week as EPA designates areas out of compliance with fine-particle soot standards and the White House seeks a replacement for Mike Leavitt. Other likely fights ahead may involve efforts by oil and car companies to kill California’s greenhouse gas motor vehicle standards (and their adoption by other states), trucking company attempts to have taxpayers subsidize cleaner trucks, and the continued woeful enforcement of the law by the current EPA.

I should point out that our efforts are meant to complement those of our many friends, including (this is far from an inclusive list) NRDC, Sierra Club, US PIRG, Clear the Air, Clean Air Task Force, and Union of Concerned Scientists, all of whom have staffers who’ve privately told me they welcome our creation. We also aim to provide information to clean-air activists around the nation. (If we don’t have the answers you seek, we’ll be happy to try to find someone who does.) Volunteers from key states have already sought us out seeking to help.

Clean Air Watch has received start-up support from some philanthropists who have asked to remain in the background. It has received no corporate or business funding. We will be seeking members who care about the quality of the air we breathe.

We will be headquartered in Washington, D.C. and will have a web site up and running (http://www.cleanairwatch.org/) early in the new year. This cleanairfrank@cleanairwatch.org) will be my primary e-mail address.

Many thanks for taking the time. I hope to hear from you soon.

--Frank O’Donnell, President, Clean Air Watch