Sept. 17 2003 12:00 AM

Clean air's archenemy

    There was our president on Monday, out at a grimy Detroit Edison coal-fired power plant in Michigan, spewing as much pollution as the facility behind him. George W. Bush's pollution was of the propaganda variety-he told us that air quality will actually be better after he eliminates requirements that energy companies install pollution-fighting equipment when they upgrade their plants.

    Sure, and war is peace, and hate is love.

    Bush's calculation is that if he appears before cameras at a dirty plant and claims the over-regulation of Big Government is standing between the power plant and cleaner air, he can fool enough people into believing he's not engaged in a systematic assault on environmental progress and perhaps pick up a few votes in what promises to be a key battleground state in the upcoming presidential election. Bush lost Michigan to Al Gore three years ago.

    But this is just the latest swell in a sea of disinformation flowing from the Bush administration. The environmental propaganda is almost as maddening as the administration's unsubstantiated claims that there was some clear connection between Iraq and the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

    Bush says his so-called "Clear Skies" program-which, in addition to power plants, also lets refineries, factories, chemical plants and paper mills off the hook-will allow industry to keep its products flowing and create more jobs by removing the costly mandate that companies install state-of-the-art anti-pollution equipment. In the absence of the federal government's "order" to install the equipment, power companies would be free to "invest" in better equipment.

    Mr. President, you must be joking. Are you under the illusion that energy companies are falling all over themselves in a mad scramble to do the right thing without being told to?

    While defenders of the President and foes of government regulation would probably dismiss this as propaganda of another sort, the Sierra Club argues that by the 15th year of Bush's so called "Clear Skies" power plant plan, "450,000 more tons of Nitrogen Oxide (NOx), 1 million more tons of Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and 9.5 more tons of mercury would be allowed than under strong enforcement of existing Clean Air Act programs."

    If you don't believe it, consider some campaign-finance numbers: According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, during the race for president in 2000, the energy industry gave Bush $442,539, more than six times the $71,200 the industry gave Gore. Already, the industry has donated $268,750 to Bush's reelection campaign.

    "Clear Skies" is payback. Bush is saying "thank you" to the industry for helping put him in office by removing "hurdles"-as he calls landmark statutes such as the Clean Air Act-and allowing the industry to reap greater profits.

    Americans increasingly point to clean air and water when they're asked to name the issues most important to them. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000. These things hardly add up to a mandate from the people telling the President to rip the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act to shreds. But that's exactly what he's doing. Democratic presidential hopefuls should make a note of that.

    U-T writers should spark up

    We can't let the Union-Tribune's Tuesday editorial on the city's proposed medical marijuana guidelines go without commentary.

    Suggesting that the city should shelve the guidelines until research tells us definitively that marijuana has medicinal value ignores the available data-anecdotal and otherwise-that already tells us it does. It's nothing more than a tactic aimed at further stalling full implementation of Prop. 215, the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law.

    We're pleased that City Council on Tuesday finally made the guidelines law, but we're disappointed that Councilmembers Scott Peters and Charles Lewis forced Councilmember Toni Atkins to add language barring ill minors from benefitting from medicinal marijuana. That was a blatant cave-in to the hysterical people in the audience at Tuesday's meeting who fear implementation of Prop. 215 will turn their children into raving lunatic criminals.

    As for the U-T's editorial writers, CityBeat recommends they get together, put some nice jazz in the CD player-perhaps some Miles Davis or John Coltrane-role a couple of fatties, chill out and sample what they're so fearful of. The likely result is some far more rational editorials on the topic.


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