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Utility Lobbyist Promised Weaker, Slower Pollution Cleanup in Taped Talk to Coal Industry, NRDC Expert Testifies

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 2, 2005) -- President Bush's plan to weaken the Clean Air Act was hatched in secret by corporate polluters, according to testimony this morning before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. In his testimony today, John Walke, clean air director at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), disclosed that a top utility industry lobbyist told coal industry representatives in an April 2001 meeting that he and his colleagues had a plan (now known as "Clear Skies") for the White House to allow coal plants to emit more pollution for much longer than allowed under the Clean Air Act. Unbeknownst to the lobbyist, his talk was recorded and transcribed, posted until yesterday on a coal industry website. (John Walke's testimony, and a transcript of the industry lobbyist's speech, is available here; click here for Walke's testimony alone.

In his comments, the lobbyist first warned his coal industry audience that EPA had been planning to use the agency's existing Clean Air Act authority to require significant and prompt reductions in air pollution from coal-burning power plants. He then assured them that he and his friends in the White House had a plan that would be much more to industry's liking. The lobbyist promised that the weaker, slower cleanup requirements in the new legislation would be something "that we can all live with and that someone else can't undo." The lobbyist also promised the administration would develop a voluntary program rather than regulation for carbon pollution from utilities because, as he said, "the President needs a fig leaf."

The White House bill would delay and dilute cuts in power plants' sulfur, nitrogen and mercury pollution that are required by the Clean Air Act. The plan also would weaken the Clean Air Act's public health safeguards protecting local air quality, curbing pollution from upwind states and restoring visibility in our national parks. The president's proposed bill would not curb power plant carbon dioxide emissions, which is a major cause of global warming and is not regulated.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 1 million members and e-activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Related NRDC Pages
February 1, 2005, Senate Testimony to Reveal "Clear Skies" Bill Crafted by Polluters
Dirty Skies: The Bush Administration's Air Pollution Plan

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