'Republicans For Clean Air': Pollution Fighters? Not Exactly

REPUBLICANS for Clean Air, a group previously unknown to the Federal Elections Commission or anyone else in politics, is now running an ad in Tuesday's primary states claiming that Gov. George W. Bush passed laws that will reduce air pollution in Texas by more than a quarter million tons a year!

The mystery of ``Republicans for Clean Air'' was solved Friday when the New York Times revealed that Dallas billionaire and Bush pioneer Sam Wyly was fronting the money for this singularly hilarious example of what is called the ``sham issue ad.''

And just the other day I was noting that one loophole in Bush's campaign finance reform is that it doesn't address sham issue ads.

In the ad, Sen. John McCain's face is superimposed on a backdrop of smokestacks belching dark clouds, while a voice-over announces:

``Last year, John McCain voted against solar and renewable energy. That means more use of coal-burning plants that pollute our air. New York Republicans care about clear air. So does Gov. Bush. He led one of the first states in America to clamp down on old coal-burning electric power plants. Bush clean-air laws will reduce air pollution more than a quarter million tons a year. That's like taking five million cars off the road. Gov. Bush: Leading so each day dawns brighter.''

Excuse me, I think I have a banana in my ear.

OK, let's look at the facts.

Texas has very dirty air. According to the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation set up by NAFTA, we pollute more than any other state or Canadian province. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Texas is No. 1 in overall toxic releases, recognized carcinogens in the air, suspected carcinogens in the air, developmental toxins in the air, cancer risk and 10 other equally depressing categories.

This is not Bush's fault. The petrochemical complex on the Texas Gulf Coast, the dirty coal-fired electric plants and many other happy contributors to our dirty air have been around since Bush was a pup. The question is: What, if anything, has Bush as governor done about all this?

Not very much. In a piece of 1999 legislation, 68 of Texas' dirtiest electric utility plants were forced to meet tougher pollution standards. But this was a shrewd move by Democratic Rep. Steve Wolens of Dallas, who wrote the legislation. He exacted pollution standards on the utilities by holding up another bill to deregulate the utilities unless the companies agreed.

When they agreed to the tougher air quality standards, so did Bush, who later signed Wolens' bill -- and now is apparently claiming credit for it.

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