Subject: POLLUTERS WAR AGAINST CLEAN AIR STANDARDS To: Multiple recipients of list ENVST-L CLEAN AIR TRUST ***CLEAN AIR BULLETIN*** TO: Reporters and editors covering the environment FROM: Frank O'Donnell DATE: January 22, 1999 SUBJECT: HOW WASHINGTON REALLY WORKS: BIG POLLUTERS BOAST OF PERCEIVED SUCCESS IN COVERT BID TO GUT EPA PLAN TO PROTECT AIR AT NATIONAL PARKS; TARGET CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS, BLACK MAYORS, SENIOR CITIZENS; BEGIN `LAYING GROUNDWORK' FOR RELAXING CLEAN AIR ACT, UNDERMINING CLEAN AIR HEALTH STANDARDS On January 21, 1999 at 10:30 a.m., lobbyists for some of the nation's biggest industrial polluters gathered at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Edison Electric Institute to celebrate, and to plot. The lobbyists, from trade associations representing the coal, electric power, oil, automobile, trucking and chemical industries, and such individual companies as General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, Texaco, Chevron, Tenneco and Phillips Petroleum, were celebrating what they believed was a covert and successful effort to gut a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plan to protect and improve air quality in and near national parks. They claimed success in part because they believe their low-key lobbying approach has kept the issue below EPA Administrator Carol Browner's radar screen. During the hour-long meeting, the polluters noted that their "outreach effort" had focused on congressional Democrats -- including a letter-signing initiative that took place on the floor of the House of Representatives in the middle of the recent impeachment debate. The lobbyists further identified black mayors -- including Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer -- and senior citizens as other potential allies in case they need to "continue some pressure" on this and other clean air issues. Flush with apparent success, the polluters also began to plot ways to relax the Clean Air Act and to undermine clean air health standards. It was a meeting of principals of an organization known as the "Air Quality Standards Coalition," a polluter alliance that reportedly had spent tens of millions of dollars in an unsuccessful effort to block new clean air standards for smog and soot in 1997. The organization, which has rechristened itself the "Air Quality Coalition," believes it has been more successful in a recent -- and far more covert -- effort to gut the EPA park protection plan. The EPA plan, known as the "regional haze rule," was designed to gradually improve pollution-impaired visibility in and around national parks. The EPA rule was proposed last year, but has been delayed -- in large part because of agitation whipped up by the polluters, who fear it might require them to clean up their emissions. Here are some highlights of the polluter gathering: o The lobbyists patted themselves on the back for waging a covert war against the EPA haze rule during the past six months. "We want everyone to understand the Coalition has been working on this issue," said Michael Mason of Tenneco. "We actually appear to be making significant progress." Another lobbyist added that the low-key lobbying campaign has not attracted the notice of EPA Administrator Browner: "We don't want Browner to own this thing." Said another: "The key is keeping it out of Carol Browner's bailiwick." o The polluters boasted that they had generated letters of opposition to the EPA rule from state governments and by specifically targeting Democratic members of the House of Representatives. Since last July, the lobbyists initiated several letters by governors and at least four letters by House Democrats. They identified Reps. Ted Strickland (D-OH) and Ron Klink (D- PA) as prominent representatives recruited to pressure EPA. One lobbyist noted that Rep. Klink had actually used the recent impeachment debate as an opportunity to gather signatures on a letter drafted by the polluter coalition. "For anyone who talks to Ron Klink," said the lobbyist, "Please thank him!" o Much of the "Democrat Outreach Strategy," noted one coalition member, has been done by a D.C. lobbying firm, the Alpine Group, which is on a $7,500 monthly retainer to the Coalition. o The lobbyists noted that EPA is expected to send a final rule on the haze issue to the White House Office of Management and Budget on or about February 15. "We're going to get the rule when it goes to OMB," noted one. "If it's okay, then we'll tell the White House that. But if not, EPA has been lying to us, saying the rule has been more flexible. That's when we need riots in the streets!" o Black mayors were identified as potential allies in case additional pressure is needed. "The mayors are meeting here in D.C. next week," noted Ronald G. Sykes, a consultant who represents General Motors. "Dennis Archer might be one." o The Commerce Department was identified as another important ally if the final rule appears objectionable. "We need to get some Democrats to knock on Commerce's door and deliver the message," noted one lobbyist. o As a safeguard, the lobbyists also discussed trying to convince Congress to block an objectionable final rule. "This might be the first opportunity to use the Congressional Review Act," said one. o Confident of success on the haze rule, the Coalition began to discuss longer- range plans to influence Congress and EPA. One member noted he had met earlier in the day with a possible ally, the Alliance for Senior Citizens. The seniors had wondered why there was still so much "bad news" about air pollution. The Coalition agreed to gather information on how air quality has improved. o Coalition members agreed to stage a retreat in the near future -- and to invite "key Hill staff" -- to plot a specific "work plan" for the next several years. A major target is the Clean Air Act. "A lot of people on the Hill are very appreciative of the help we've given them -- they want that help to continue," noted one lobbyist. "They want us to identify problem areas in the Clean Air Act so they can develop a public record for changing the law." Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Clean Air Subcommittee, was identified as a key. [Inhofe has said he will hold oversight hearings on the law this year.] The lobbyists agreed to spend the next two years "laying the groundwork" for weakening the law. o The Coalition also targeted EPA's health standards for smog and soot. The lobbyists discussed using various corporate foundations to underwrite research projects that could be used to undermine the current standards. "Some companies have foundations that can fund research," noted one lobbyist. "It comes out of a different pile of money." o The lobbyists lamented that only $60,000 remains in the Coalition's war chest. The Edison Electric Institute and Chemical Manufacturers Association quickly volunteered to provide a quick infusion of new cash. General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler pledged to "give their fair share." The Coalition noted it would put out a new letter to its members seeking "dues.
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