Clouds Gathering for Clear Skies

Last week, we learned that President Bush’s “Clear Skies” proposal was essentially drafted by big polluters and that EPA distorted the science to reach predetermined conclusions about mercury pollution. Now another memo emerges showing that a coalition of eight utility companies dictated changes to the final bill.

Among the changes requested by the coalition were relaxing regulations for older power plants, further weakening the rules on mercury, and a tax subsidy for the companies’ cleanup costs. The industry got everything it asked for.

The revelations are part of an emerging pattern of manipulating and withholding scientific data to conform to industry positions.

Some examples:

EPA has repeatedly refused to conduct or release analyses of legislation related to global warming.

EPA was ordered to delay a workshop on the cardiovascular effects of mercury until after Congress issues new standards on mercury pollution. Agency sources said including the cardiovascular data in a cost-benefit analysis would have “bumped up the benefits side significantly” but will now not be included.


Scientists in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say they have been asked by their supervisors to alter or withhold findings that would have led to more protection for endangered species. They responded to a mail-in survey despite agency instructions not to do so “in the office or from home.”

The good news? Public pressure is building against this distorted science. The National Council of Churches spoke out against Clear Skies, saying it “delays the critical action necessary to clean up our nation’s air and fails altogether to address the real and present threat of global warming.” And because it lacks crucial Republican support, Clear Skies may not even make it out of the Senate committee.

— Erica Stephan