Environmentalist special interests run the sleaziest attack ads in the business, as has been noted before on this blog, and also by my colleague Marlo Lewis. It doesn’t matter if you are a Republican (like Sen. Scott Brown) or a Democrat (like Sen. Mary Landrieu)—if you don’t toe the green line, then environmentalist advocacy groups will go for your jugular. Almost always, these enviro organizations try to pin an allegation of child abuse on those with whom they disagree. Classy!
Case in point: The American Lung Association’s tasteless new television ad campaign, which I’ve posted at the end of this blog. Here’s how the ALA described the spot in a press release:
The ad…features a red baby carriage with sounds of a child suffering respiratory distress that are heard while the red carriage is seen in front of iconic D.C. landmarks including the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol. The voiceover of the ad states the following: “Congress can’t ignore the facts. More pollution means more childhood asthma attacks. Log on to LungUSA.org and tell Washington: Don’t weaken the Clean Air Act.”
There are several problems with this campaign. For starters, the American Lung Association suffers from a huge conflict of interest. The point of the ad is to protect the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate under the Clean Air Act. Left unmentioned by the narrator is the fact that the EPA is a major funder of the ALA, having delivered more than $20 million over the last ten years. As my colleague Myron Ebell noted, “So the EPA pays the American Lung Association, which in turn lobbies against a bill that would rein in EPA.” Many Americans labor under the misapprehension that the ALA is staffed by disinterested MDs in white coats; in fact, it employs partisan shills.
According to the advertisement, “More pollution means more childhood asthma attacks.” This claim is simplistic to the point of being disingenuous. For thirty years, asthma rates in the U.S. have been increasing, while pollution has been on the decline. From 1980 to 2009, ambient American air concentrations of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone decreased 78 percent, 48 percent, and 30 percent (respectively). Yet the prevalence of asthma increased 75% from 1980-1994, and asthma rates in children under the age of five have increased more than 160% from 1980-1994. Moreover, the number of people with asthma continues to grow. One in 12 people (about 25 million, or 8% of the population) had asthma in 2009, compared with 1 in 14 (about 20 million, or 7%) in 2001. (All of the asthma data was lifted from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.) The truth of the matter is that asthma is poorly understood. The ailment appears to have a number of triggers. Clearly, “pollution” isn’t the driving variable. Otherwise, asthma rates would have declined in lockstep with decreasing ambient air concentrations of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone.
If viewers go to lungusa.org, the website plugged in the American Lung Association television ad, they can sign an online petition demanding that their representatives “defend and protect the Clean Air Act.” It might surprise you to learn that I agree with this–I wholeheartedly believe that the Congress needs “to defend and protect the Clean Air Act”…from the EPA, whose politically driven war on domestic energy production is making a mockery of the law as it was written by lawmakers. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the EPA’s global warming power grab. In order to placate the President’s environmentalist base, the EPA has seized the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, despite the fact that the Agency lacked a Congressional mandate. In the words of Rep. John Dingell, an author of the Clean Air Act, “This [using the Clean Air Act for climate change mitigation] is not what was intended by the Congress.” He further warned that the EPA’s decision to regulate greenhouse gases invited a “glorious mess,” one that is already underway.
That’s not the only affront to the Clean Air Act being perpetrated by the EPA. In the late 1970s, the Congress amended the Clean Air Act to protect visibility in National Parks. At the time, the Congress took care to ensure that policies to improve vistas were formulated by the States, and not the federal government. Now, however, the EPA is using this “Regional Haze” provision of the Clean Air Act to run roughshod over States, in blatant disregard of Congressional intent. Over the objections of elected officials in New Mexico and Oklahoma, the EPA is trying to impose billions of dollars of controls that would deliver imperceptible improvements in visibility.
Alas, there’s more. East of the Mississippi, the EPA is poised to implement a Clean Air Act regulation known as the “Utility MACT,” one of the most expensive regulations ever, whose justification is to protect America’s supposed population of pregnant, subsistence fisherwomen. Recently, the EPA issued a major new air quality regulation (the Cross State Pollution Rule) that seems to settle a political score with Texas. The Congress did not write the Clean Air Act so that the EPA could punish its detractors.
These are difficult times. The economy stinks, and the EPA is making things worse by creatively interpreting environmental statutes so as to wage a political war on energy. For the sake of the American people, the Congress should “defend and protect the Clean Air Act” from the EPA.
Here’s the ad: