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The Planet

By Sarah Wootton

Hot One-Liners | Cheney Avoids Bear | 3-2-1 Action! | Strike Two for Diesel

Hot One-Liners

It had been 90 degrees every day for a week in April when Ariana Silverman, a Club staffer, ran into Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman at an Israeli Embassy party in an outdoor tent. After observing the perfect global warming metaphor - an impenetrable tent trapping unseasonable extreme heat and making the guests sweat - Silverman struck up conversation with Whitman, saying, "Y'know, this heat really makes me think we should do something about global warming." Whitman, who had no interest in having a conversation with Silverman, said, "Hmmmm..." and turned away.

The Washington Post, which mentioned the exchange in its gossip column, wrote, "EPA spokesman Joe Martyak told us that his boss was just trying to be agreeable, yet energy-saving, on an uncomfortably hot day."

Cheney Avoids Bear

Phila Back, member of the Berks Group (Pennsylvania) of the Sierra Club, was one of more than 100 protesters vying for Vice President Dick Cheney's attention in downtown Allentown, Pa., in April. If Cheney had driven by Ninth and Hamilton, he would have noticed Back dressed as a polar bear. She was there to tell Sens. Arlen Specter (R) and Rick Santorum (R) she was unhappy with their support for Arctic drilling. Unfortunately, Cheney avoided the protesters' intersection, ducked into a $500-per-plate lunch for Rep. Pat Toomey and never saw the protesters.

Even though Cheney missed the protesters in person, the Club's sign that read "Our Bad Boys: Cheney, Specter, Santorum and Toomey" made the Allentown newspaper, and Bob Berger, vice chair of the Burke Group, was interviewed by CBS.

When asked if the polar bear received coverage Back said, "I don't watch TV so I don't know if the polar bear was on."

3-2-1 Action!

Colleen Kiernan, a Club organizer, may have missed her true calling as a radio personality. While in Savannah for a public meeting on coal-fired power plants - which were sued by the EPA for New Source Review violations, but have been allowed to continue polluting by Georgia - Kiernan appeared on a local radio show and won over skeptical radio show host Bill Edwards and his traffic sidekick, on 1290 WTKS.

On her way to the radio show, Kiernan listened to the program and "the hosts missed no opportunity to insult the Sierra Club," she says. "They would announce an event and then say, 'You should go on Saturday if a coal-fired power plant hasn't killed you by then!' And then the traffic guy would start coughing."

On the live show, Kiernan explained the health and economic impacts of coal-fired power plants - lost days of school and work, trips to the hospital - and gained ground when the talk show turned to solutions that included innovation and free markets.

"As we drove away, the traffic guy had stopped coughing and started apologizing for insulting the Sierra Club for the duration of the next segment," Kiernan says. "He said the Sierra Club is sensible, and 'you can tell they really care and they aren't just a bunch of left-wing wackos.'"

A repeat performance, please.

Strike Two for Diesel

compressed natural gas busWhen Mark Wenzler, chair of the Washington, D.C., Chapter of the Sierra Club, wanted to talk to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board about buying cleaner buses, he couldn't even get in the door. Now, after four years of consistent lobbying for compressed natural gas buses over diesel, Wenzler, other Club activists and the Natural Resources Defense Council, can chalk one up for cleaner air.

On April 18, the board voted to purchase 250 CNG buses and build a second CNG refueling facility, in addition to 164 CNG buses ordered earlier in the year. In Washington, pollution caused by small particulate matter - largely from diesel engines - could force the nation's capital to be non-compliant with new federal standards and the Clean Air Act. CNG buses may help the city avoid non-compliance by producing almost no fine particulate matter and emitting 60 percent fewer smog-forming nitrogen oxides than diesel.

Final score: Lungs: 1, Diesel pollution: 0.

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