Challenged Industry Lobbyist Retreats From Doomsday Smog Declaration

It took less than a day for a heavy-hitter energy industry lobbyist to retreat and walk back his economic claim about stronger smog protections after I publicly challenged him.

Yesterday I challenged energy industry lobbyist and lawyer, Scott Segal, to back up an outlandish claim he made in the L.A. Times about the consequences of stronger smog safeguards for Americans. Safeguards that will protect all Americans, but especially children, asthmatics and the elderly, against asthma attacks, chronic lung diseases, and a range of respiratory ailments [pdf].

Mr. Segal claimed that as a result of more protective smog standards, “[m]any states and metropolitan areas will face effective bans on economic growth and job creation at the very time they need it the most.”

I know he cannot back up that claim but I offered him the opportunity to substantiate it here with a longer explanation of any supporting facts and law.

Before that could happen, however, Mr. Segal retreated from his doomsday declaration in an article later in the day in E&E News PM [subscr. req'd]. Mr. Segal now claims instead that being required to meet stronger smog safeguards "can hinder economic development."

Consider that. One day the bold pronouncement that health safeguards against smog pollution means areas "will face effective bans on economic growth." The very next day the more tremulous assertion that such standards "can hinder economic growth."

Ban becomes hinder. Certainty becomes possibility and speculation.

Neither assertion backed by facts or evidence, mind you, but to be fair the offer remains open to provide those explanations here. (I have since heard from Scott on vacation -- sorry Scott -- and he says he will respond. So we can look forward to that.)

Lobbying groups for polluting industries like the American Petroleum Institute, Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable have been making the same apocalyptic economic claims as part of a feverish campaign to deny Americans the right to healthy air. Those claims would crumble too in the face of challenges to back up the alarmism with facts.

That's what happens when industry lobbyists construct alarmist economic arguments like a house of cards on the loose sand. All it takes is a natural question to roll in like a wave or a puff of wind to tear the house down.