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The Planet

Club Counters Industry's Air Attacks:

Earth Day Outreach Builds Support for Strong EPA Standards

The Planet, May 1997, Volume 4, number 4

Big polluters don't want to spend their money to clean up the air, but they're opening up their wallets with a vengeance to try and stop the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed new clean air standards. The agency's proposals would reduce allowable levels of ground-level ozone (smog) from 120 parts per billion to 80 parts per billion and introduce new rules for fine particulates (soot) smaller than 10 microns. (A human hair is 70 microns thick.)

Industry coalitions have launched a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign and have hired doctors and economists to write reports saying the tougher standards are unnecessary and too expensive. They recently spent more than half a million dollars on one radio ad campaign.

But one of the studies polluters paid for concluded that clean air need not be expensive. That study, however, won't see the light of day, according to a report in The New Republic (April 14, 1997). The American Iron and Steel Institute commissioned a study to find out the price tag for complying with the new standards in Pittsburgh. The preliminary results showed it wouldn't cost a cent.

"So let's deep-six them," said one Institute member, quoted in The New Republic report. Bruce Steiner of AISI admitted the institute canceled the study because "it gives a partial view," reported the magazine.

The Sierra Club doesn't have the dollars industry has, but we've got the scientific facts on our side, not to mention thousands of Club members who will be fanning out into their communities in the coming months to build a groundswell of support for the new standards.

As The Planet goes to press, volunteers and staff in dozens of cities, from Las Vegas to Tampa, are preparing to take this battle for clean air to a wider audience in high-visibility outreach events on Earth Day and through the spring.

The centerpiece of the outreach is a double postcard (see photo, page 3) -- one card is addressed to President Clinton, urging him to stand up to industry pressure and adopt the much-needed new clean air standards, the other to a local official. In many parts of the country, the second postcard also focuses on air, but in some locations the issue is a more pressing local one -- like cleaning up the beaches in San Diego or improving regulation of industrial hog farms in Oklahoma.

Sierra Club members in Los Angeles have already launched a pre-Earth Day offensive for clean air with a well-placed booth at Eco-Expo, an environmental trade fair that drew thousands of participants. Club activists collected more than 500 postcards to President Clinton and Gov. Wilson (R) urging them to support the stronger air standards.

As we reach out this Earth Day and beyond, we will be reminding our supporters (and opponents) that we have made real and measurable progress cleaning up the environment. Our air is cleaner. Our water is cleaner. We have reduced our exposure to toxic chemicals. We've brought species like the bald eagle back from the brink of extinction.

In the coming months, we will use this progress as a powerful reminder that environmental laws can be effective and that personal and collective action can forge solutions to tough problems.

At the same time, we will be alerting citizens that threats to our environment and our health remain -- especially in the air we breathe.

We have certainly made great strides in cleaning up the air, but even at current levels, healthy kids still suffer lung damage, and kids with asthma suffer more severe attacks, require more drugs and more hospital visits and can't play outside when air quality is poor.

"The Clinton administration is hurting from the intense pressure from industry," says Sierra Club Environmental Quality Director Kathryn Hohmann. "We have to counter that pressure and let the White House know that the American people want cleaner air."

To take action: Tell President Clinton you support the EPA's proposed standards on smog and soot. Tell him to stand up to industry pressure and adopt the new standards. Call the White House comment line at: (202) 456-1111, write President Clinton at: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC 20500 or e-mail: <>.

For more information or to receive a bulk order (100 or more) of the clean air postcards, please call the Activist Desk at (415) 977-5747 or e-mail: <>.

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