Thursday, March 17, 2005

Got Mercury?

In announcing the EPA's new mercury ruling, the New York Times failed to mention that the author of the new rules represented the worst mercury polluters in the country.

That's right, Jeffrey Holmstead worked for Latham & Watkins, representing utilities and chemical companies. When he was recruited by the Bush administration to write new rules on mercury emissions, he arrived handily equipped with a proposal ready made by his former law firm.

Does anyone see a conflict of interest here?

Martha Keating did. She was an environmentalist appointed by the EPA in 2001 to help revamp the mercury emissions rules--that is, until Bush administration told her it didn't need her help anymore.

Later, she noticed that the mercury rules proposed by the EPA were almost identical to a proposal authored by Latham & Watkins. Whole paragraphs were copied, almost word for word, into the EPA's mercury rules.

The new rules allow power plants to buy rights to pollute rather than clean up their acts, sending the costs--and the mercury--right to your doorstep.

It's kind of hard to have an intelligent debate on an issue when you don't know with whom you're dealing.

Listen to Holmstead squirm as he's put on the spot about his former employment in an interview with David Brancaccio for the PBS news magazine "Now":

BRANCACCIO: You used to work at Latham & Watkins?

HOLMSTEAD: Yes. No, no. I absolutely… I and one of my close colleagues here were both at Latham & Watkins. But Latham & Watkins represents many industries. And this language didn't come in through me or through my colleague. It came in actually without our even knowing about it.

BRANCACCIO: So, I shouldn't worry about a conflict?

HOLMSTEAD: No. There's no conflict. It's certainly something people have tried to make hay out of. And I think that's unfortunate. And that's why I say, "Gee, I wish that someone had told me that this was an issue." And we would've said, "Here's an idea that's come in from an industry, and we ask for comment on it."

I ask, is there anything that George W. Bush has accomplished without misrepresenting his intentions, without deceiving the American people, without lying?

Matthew Wald, "New Rules Set for Mercury of Mercury," New York Times, 16 March 2005.

Now, transcript, 25 June 2004.

Now, transcript, 21 January 2005.

"Environment: Jeffrey Holmstead," Howling at a Wailing Moon, 23 May 2004.

As an addendum, the influence of industry advocates in the formation of public policy is just the way Bush does business. Screw the people!

"President Bush has installed more than 100 top officials who were once lobbyists, attorneys or spokespeople for the industries they oversee..."
Anne C. Mulkern, "Rats in The Kitchen," Denver Post, 23 May 2004, reprinted in Howling at the Moon.


At 3/18/2005 09:35:00 PM, Blogger PRB said...

Schroeder: Nice work. Your news on mercury is depressing, but not suprising--my wife used to work at Physicians for Social Responsibility, so I heard all about how the Bush Administration dealt with arsenic when they first took power.

Excellent blog, by the way. I particularly appreciate the commentary on public opinion. I'll be dropping by from time to time.

Also, I'm still grateful to you for being the first commenter on mine. Thanks for the encouragement, and thanks for the link, too.

At 3/18/2005 11:32:00 PM, Blogger Rob said...

I wish you weren't right. I'd be open to trading for emissions, like what the Europeans are doing under Kyoto (I think), if I thought I could halfway trust the administration. But at this point, I assume that anything they say is a trick. The only thing that might not be is Bush's stance on immigration; that may actually go beyond *just* electoral politics.

PRB: "Took power"--I'm fond of that line. More accurate than "was elected."

At 3/19/2005 07:59:00 AM, Blogger Schroeder said...

Thanks for the comments guys. I appreciate your blogs, so it's nice to hear from you.

At 3/19/2005 08:24:00 AM, Anonymous pinkdragon said...

Who would have thought that something like this could be an "issue"? Unbelievable comments from supposedly "educated" representatives/employees of seemingly reputable firms/agencies. But, then again, are their actions and comments such a surprise, considering the leader of the pack? It is too bad that more people aren't aware of this situation. Well written, by the way, thanks.


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