administration is now in The Full Ostrich on Iraq:
Dick Cheney put on a fabulous performance last
Sunday on Meet the Press, in which he insisted
everything in Iraq is tickety-boo, right as rain
and cheery-bye. I haven't heard anyone lie with
such gravitas since Henry Kissinger was in office.
for the complete black-is-white, up-is-down, peace-is-war
mode, you have to check out this administration
on the environment. I am fascinated by its rank
latest episode was President Bush's Monday visit
to the Detroit Edison power plant in Monroe, Mich.,
which he actually touted as a "living example"
of why his dandy Clear Skies (gag me) initiative
is so good for us all. "You're good stewards of
the quality of the air," Bush told the plant's
Monroe plant is one of the worst polluters in
the country. In 2001, it sent 102,700 tons of
sulfur dioxide -- the leading cause of acid rain
-- into the atmosphere.
cite a study done in 2000 by ABT Associates --
which the Environmental Protection Agency has
used to measure the health effects of pollution
-- that says the plant annually causes 293 premature
deaths, 5,740 asthma attacks and 50,298 lost workdays.
Washington Post reports that the study also
said the plant releases 45,900 tons of nitrogen
oxide, 810 pounds of mercury and 17.6 million
tons of carbon dioxide.
Clear Skies (these people are going to kill irony),
the plant will continue to shed this gentle beneficence
on us all for the next 17 years. According to
environmental groups, the administration's relaxation
of clean air rules, known as "new source review,"
will allow the plant to increase its emissions.
told the happy Monrovians: "Lights went out last
month -- you know that. It recognizes that we've
got an issue with our electricity grid and we
need to modernize it. The quicker we put modern
equipment into our power plants, the quicker people
are going to get more reliable electricity."
what Clear Skies (give us a break) had to do with
the aged electricity grid, according to The
Washington Post, "A senior Bush aide later
said that Bush was not asserting that the old
clean air rules led to the blackouts. 'We are
unable to draw any connection without further
that wasn't what Bush asserted, then what was
he asserting? That guy must have listened to a
different speech than the one I did.
Skies (I give up -- I refuse to call it that),
which has yet to be enacted by Congress, is not
to be confused with the "new source review" rules,
which the administration has already changed.
The Misnomer sets up a system under which dirty
plants can buy "pollution credits" from clean
plants and keep polluting.
source review is a glitch in the Clean Air Act
passed in 1977. The Clean Air Act "grandfathered
in" more than 16,000 aging plants and industrial
facilities in the happy expectation that they
would gradually be in compliance in a few years.
EPA estimates that 30,000 Americans a year --
10 times as many were killed on Sept. 11, 2001
-- die each year because the Clean Air standards
on coal-fired power plants have not been enforced.
new source review, these dirty plants could perform
routine maintenance without having to install
cleaner technologies, but any major changes leading
to more pollution have to meet Clean Air standards.
An excellent article in the current all-environment
issue of Mother Jones points out, "For
nearly three decades, these facilities have gotten
around the new source review rules by continually
expanding and calling it 'routine maintenance.'"
1999, EPA's director tried a novel approach: enforcing
the law. The EPA filed lawsuits against eight
power companies that together produce one-fifth
of the nation's sulfur dioxide. By the end of
2000, two of the largest polluters had agreed
to cut emissions by two-thirds, and others were
lining up to negotiate settlements.
Bush brought in Christine Whitman at EPA, who
told Congress that if she were an attorney for
one of the sued companies, "I would not settle
anything." Presto, the two settlements disappeared,
and so did the other offers.
nice little example of the under-the-radar technique
was recently uncovered by Greenpeace via a 2002
e-mail from Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise
Institute, a group heavily funded by Exxon Mobil.
"Thanks for calling and asking for our help,"
begins this chipper memo to the White House Council
for Environmental Quality.
goes on to describe his group's plan to discredit
an EPA study on climate change by filing a lawsuit
to suppress it. "We need to drive a wedge between
the president and those in the administration
who think they are serving the president's interests
by publishing this rubbish."
state attorneys general have asked U.S. Attorney
General John Ashcroft to investigate because the
memo "reveals great intimacy between CEI and [the
administration] in their strategizing about ways
to minimize the problem of global warming. It
also suggests the CEQ may have been directly involved
in efforts to undermine the United States' official
report, as well as the authority of the EPA administrator."
course, John "Lost to a Dead Guy" Ashcroft is
too busy to check it out because he's now out
on a "charm offensive" to convince us all that
the USA Patriot Act is good for us. I always think
of Ashcroft and charm in the same sentence. Sex,
the by, I'm sure The Washington Post was
making no editorial comment when it closed its
story on the Monroe visit with this additional
fact: "After his speech in Michigan, Bush flew
to Philadelphia to a fund-raiser that brought
in $1.4 million for his re-election effort."
Ivins writes for Creators Syndicate. 5777 W. Century
Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045
September 30, 2003