Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Bush Pollution Plan At Odds With States-Rights Principles by Govs. Schwarzenegger, Pataki

For Immediate Release

(Washington, DC. January 26, 2005) – The Bush administrations air pollution plan for the electric power industry is “at serious odds” with a new states’-rights declaration by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York Governor George Pataki, the non-profit Clean Air Watch noted today.

The two governors sent a joint letter today to the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as the panel held a hearing on the Bush plan, a polluter-friendly proposal euphemistically called the “clear skies initiative.”

In their letter, the two governors reminded Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and Jim Jeffords (I-VT) that “one of the cornerstones” of the Clean Air Act is “that states do the majority of the work to carry out its mandates,” and that the law “allows individual states to have stronger pollution controls than those set for the whole country – a right California and New York have exercised under the Act.”

The governors added that that their states and others “will need all the tools available under the Act to craft effective strategies to meet” new federal health standards for smog and fine particle soot.

As Congress considers new legislation on the subject, the governors pleaded that “states maintain the ability to have stronger pollution controls than those set for the nation as a whole.”

Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, noted that “The governors comments are at serious odds with the President’s pollution plan,” which would take away some existing states’ rights and some of the key tools needed to meet health standards. “It’s no coincidence they sent their plan to Senators Inhofe and Jeffords as they began to consider the President’s polluter-friendly plan,” O’Donnell added.

O’Donnell noted, for example, that the President’s pollution plan would take away the right of states to take action against pollution blowing in from other states. “This attack on states’ rights would make it virtually impossible for downwind states to protect their citizens,” O’Donnell said.

The President’s plan, which has been endorsed by some of the nation’s biggest polluters, would eliminate new source review, a tool used by states to protect local communities from harm caused by pollution.

The polluter-protection plan would also interfere with state cleanup efforts by creating new pollution havens called “transition zones” – a provision that state and local regulators today said could “impede timely implementation of state and local regulatory initiatives.”

The state and local regulators concluded that the President’s plan “strips away many of our most essential Clean Air Act tools and authorities,” and said they could not endorse it, O’Donnell noted.

“The state and local air pollution regulators obviously stand squarely with Governors Schwarzenegger and Pataki,” O’Donnell said. “For clean air – and against the President’s attempt to undermine state authorities.”

The full letter is available from Clean Air Watch by calling (202) 558-3527.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Clean Air Watch challenges NASCAR to “get the lead out”

Clean Air Watch
1090 Vermont Avenue, N.W.
Suite 800
Washington, DC 20005

January 19, 2005

Mr. Brian Z. France
Chairman and CEO
National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing
1801 W. International Speedway Blvd.
Daytona Beach, FL 32115

Dear Mr. France:

I am writing on behalf of Clean Air Watch, a national non-profit organization, to urge your organization to take a step to improve public health by eliminating the use of leaded gasoline in NASCAR races.

By permitting the continued use of lead, your organization may be putting millions of spectators and nearby residents at unnecessary risk of suffering serious health effects, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

You are probably aware of the many health problems linked to lead exposure: According to the EPA, lead causes damage to the kidneys, liver, brain and nerves, and other organs. Even low levels of lead damage the brain and nerves in fetuses and young children, resulting in learning deficits and lowered IQ. A recent study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that lead exposure could contribute to mental lapses among older segments of the population. High lead exposure has been linked to reproductive problems including decreased sperm count and spontaneous abortions. Other problems associated with lead exposure include seizures, mental retardation, behavioral disorders, memory problems, high blood pressure and increased heart disease.

Removing lead from the gasoline used by highway vehicles is one of the great public health success stories in recent times. Because of the ban on lead in highway gasoline, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that levels of lead in the air have dropped by 94 percent since 1980 – and that this has led to a huge drop in lead levels in peoples’ blood.
Because of the clear public health threat, lead is being eliminated from gasoline throughout most of the world. It has already been banned in such places as Beijing, El Salvador and Thailand, and is even being phased out in such lesser-developed nations as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

However, as you probably know, Congress did not give EPA authority to ban leaded gasoline in racing cars. Even so, the continuing potential health risk has prompted EPA since at least the year 2000 to urge NASCAR to “voluntarily” eliminate this toxin. Indeed, the EPA reported in 2000 that a “priority activity” was to “coordinate with NASCAR and NASCAR sponsors to encourage a voluntary unleaded phase-in partnership/program to eliminate the use of leaded gasoline in the auto racing industry.” EPA said it was motivated because the continuing use of leaded gas at NASCAR races “potentially puts certain subpopulations at risk,” including race spectators and “residents (particularly children) near sources such as race tracks.”

I sincerely hope you will act promptly to “get the lead out,” so that NASCAR spectators may enjoy the racing experience without facing any unnecessary health risks. If Kazakhstan can eliminate lead from gasoline, why can’t NASCAR?


Frank O’Donnell
Clean Air Watch

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Polluters Buy Access to Policy Makers at Posh Arizona Resorts

Press Release/Letter to Reporters
January 04, 2005

Congress returns to D.C. this week for a brief organizing session, but a lot of the real action is happening out west – at the posh Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix. The Western Business Roundtable (a polluters’ who’s-who, including the Edison Electric Institute, big coal mining companies, etc.) is hosting the “Business Summit of the West,” a meeting that “gives business leaders a unique opportunity to talk with top experts” about such topics as the “latest threats/opportunities” in proposed air regulation. (You can read about this yourself click here)

In other words, it’s a great opportunity for polluter lobbyists to buy access to top federal and state officials amid golf and booze. (This meeting is, of course, in keeping with the Roundtable’s key mission, which includes:

  • Work to influence the development of public policies at the state, regional and federal levels.
  • Help our members gain access to public policymakers at the highest levels of government.)

The fun starts tomorrow with a welcoming reception (sponsored by Arch Coal Company) and charity golf tournament at the “wild west” Las Sendas golf course. But the real action may be January 6, when officials – including White House Counsel of Environmental Quality Chairman Jim Connaughton, EPA Assistant Administrator Jeffrey Holmstead, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) and John Shanahan, counsel to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), are expected to discuss clean air and energy policy. Lunch is sponsored by BIPAC, a political action committee which “identifies and supports pro-business candidates who have demonstrated the skill and leadership necessary to fuel a pro-business Congress.”

There’s still time to make this exciting gathering – if you hurry! It only costs $500 to attend – and that includes admission to the “Wild West Saloon Night.”


At the same time, the Edison Electric Institute is holding its winter board of directors meeting at the nearby Scottsdale Princess hotel. CEOs of the big power companies are expected to attend. Among the items on EEI’s agenda (yes, they’ve got their own golf tournament): power company CEOs will plot on ways to get Congress to adopt the Bush administration’s “clear skies” plan, which would weaken the current Clean Air Act.

And these guys know who to plot with! -- Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and George Voinovich (R-OH) are expected to participate in part of this discussion via live video conference.

As always, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if we can help.

--Frank O’Donnell, Clean Air Watch, 202-558-3527