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

Tomorrow, testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on President Bush's "Clear Skies" initiative will reveal that the plan was hatched in secret by corporate polluters that stand to benefit from its weakening of the Clean Air Act. John Walke, clean air director at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), will disclose that in April 2001, a top utility industry lobbyist told coal industry representatives that he and his colleagues had a plan for the White House to allow coal plants to emit more pollution for much longer than the Environmental Protection Agency had been planning to require under the Clean Air Act. That plan became the bill known as "Clear Skies." Unbeknownst to the lobbyist, his talk was transcribed, and it is currently posted at

The utility industry 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 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. Rather, the lobbyist promised, the administration would develop a voluntary program for carbon pollution from utilities rather than regulation because, he said, "the President needs a fig leaf."

John Walke's testimony before the hearing is available by emailing Elizabeth Heyd at

The hearing will start at 9:15 am in Room 406 of the Dirksen Building. The first panel will hear testimony from the Bush administration by James L. Connaughton, chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality. The second panel will hear from John Walke, NRDC's clean air director; Brian Houseal, executive director of the Adirondack Council; and Abraham Breehey, legislative representative from the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers.