Appeals Judges in Polluters' Pockets

Two of the federal appeals court judges who struck down important new air quality standards have attended all-expenses-paid junkets that featured seminars on anti-environmental legal strategy in between fly-fishing jaunts at one of Montana's premier resorts.

The D.C.-based appeals court panel May 14 ruled 2 to 1 that the Environmental Protection Agency had arbitrarily set new air pollution standards -- rules put forth by the Clinton administration to reduce lung-damaging soot and ozone, an essential component of smog. But John Passacantando, executive director of Ozone Action, a nonpartisan public interest group that promotes stronger federal and international clean air, reports that the two judges who ruled to submarine the standards, Stephen Williams and Douglas Ginsburg, both Ronald Reagan appointees, are regular attendees of junkets by FREE, the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment. Indeed, Ginsburg sits on FREE's board of directors.

Internal Revenue Service records show that funding for FREE comes in part from foundations with a significant interest in environmental law issues, including the foundations of Amoco, Koch Industries, GE and Shell Oil, according to Douglas Kendall of the Community Rights Counsel, a nonprofit organization that works, in part, to disclose the efforts of groups like FREE.

Meanwhile, the dissenting judge, David Tatel, a Clinton appointee, didn't see the EPA's approach as arbitrary at all, stating that the EPA had "adhered to a disciplined decision-making process,'' including extensive peer review of its analysis and four years of scientific and medical studies. In fact, the agency gave the states up to 15 years to meet these standards.

"Tatel must have been surprised by the strange ruling of his colleagues," Passacantando wrote in a column distributed by Knight-Ridder. "But it is nothing that a little fly-fishing trip won't fix."

HEALTH CARE MOVEMENT. The Gray Panthers are starting a drive to get Congress to promote affordable, accessible and accountable health care for every American. They want interested Americans to put a face on the health care crisis in America by calling your members of Congress (202-224-3121) and the president (202-456-1111) every Tuesday from now through September and telling them, "We want the same kind of health care you get." Then tell them:

* Your trouble with affording health care for you or your family.

* Your trouble getting through the gatekeeper or seeing a specialist or getting insurer to pay for your health care.

* Your trouble changing jobs or moving or getting married or getting divorce without loosing your health care.

The Panthers will have a Universal Health Care rally at their 12th Biennial Convention Oct. 22 in Washington, D.C. They invite people who have had problems getting affordable, accessible and accountable health care to send their stories to be included in the Wall of Shame. Send stories of less than 100 words, in large print with name, city, state/district and photograph, if possible, to:

Gray Panthers, Universal Health Care--Wall of Shame
733-15th Street, NW Suite 437
Washington, DC 20005

CUMULATIVE VOTING PETITION. Illinois Citizens for Proportional Representation is circulating a petition to revive cumulative voting, the method used from 1870-1980 to elect Illinois state legislators by three-member districts, which allowed minorities to get representation. The petition would call for a referendum on bringing back cumulative voting, which was abolished in 1980 as part of a wrong-headed reform movement. Petitioners need to collect 250,000 signatures of registered Illinois voters by May 2000 to put cumulative voting on the November 2000 ballot. Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) has also introduced a constitutional amendment to allow cumulative voting or other proportional representation. In Congress, HR 1173, sponsored by Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., would allow the states to use multi-member districts to elect their congressional delegations. Contact Dan Johnson-Weinberger, Illinois Citizens for Proportional Representation, PO Box 14314, Chicago, IL 60614; email proportionalrepresentation@msn.com; or phone 773-508-4890.

SOVEREIGNTY BILL. One of the more important economic movements in the country calls for the printing of money to make interest-free loans available to state and local governments for capital projects. Although popular economic theory has it that such expenditures would lead to inflation, trillions of dollars were created by the federal government and private banks (through creating debt) at a time when inflation actually declined. What the sovereignty movement endangers is not inflation but the profits of the bond market .... Now Rep. Ray Lahood, R-Ill., has introduced a bill providing for such a loan fund -- which could reduce the cost of capital projects by one-third and boost the economy in a useful way. For more information on the Sovereignty proposal or HR 1452, the "State and Local Government Economic Empowerment Act," write Sovereignty, PO Box 782, Freeport, IL 61032; email sovgntyken@aol.com; or see the web site: (www.epicweb-pages.com/sovereignty). -- Sam Smith

A new law that provides tax dollars to candidates for state office in Arizona has curtailed the usual summer fund-raising blitz, the Arizona Republic reported June 3. "Summer normally marks the beginning of the fund-raising season at the state Capitol, when lobbyists begin to cement relationships with lawmakers with campaign contributions made over wine and cheese.

"But for the first time in recent memory, lobbyists are finding themselves with no place to go and few checks to write.

"The cause, according to candidates, lobbyists and campaign finance experts, is the state's new public finance law, which provides tax dollars to candidates."

The state Supreme Court on May 3 rejected the Arizona Chamber of Commerce's challenge against the Clean Elections Act, and a commission designed to oversee the public campaign financing plan met for the first time June 2 to hammer out the early details of collecting and distributing the money.

THE FCC HAS EXTENDED until Aug. 2 the deadline on public comments on its proposal to authorize low-power community radio service [See "FCC Proposes Low-Power Radio," 3/99 PP.] The National Association of Broadcasters, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio requested the 60-day extension while they prepare their opposition to the measure, which they fear will interfere with their signals and, more importantly, increase competition. To speak out for diversity and community service in local radio, phone the FCC toll-free 1-888-225-5322; write the Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20554; or see the FCC web site (www.fcc.gov). Refer to Docket MM 99-25.

WORKING POOR LOSE HEALTH CARE. Welfare reform caused an estimated 675,000 people to lose health insurance in 1997, the first year of welfare reform implementation, according to Families USA. The number of uninsured is expected to skyrocket in the next several years as the full impact of welfare reform is felt. Children made up 62% of the people who lost health insurance as a result of welfare reform. Most of these children were likely still eligible for Medicaid and should not have lost coverage. Contact Families USA, 1334 G St. NW, Washington, DC 20005; phone 202-628-3030; email: info@familiesusa.org.

PUBLIC DISLIKES FACTORY FARMS. A nationwide poll of 1,000 registered voters indicates that the American public views animal factories unfavorably. Animal factories are agricultural production facilities that mass produce thousands of hogs, chickens and cattle in warehouse-sized buildings for their entire lives. The survey, conducted by Lake Snell Perry & Associates, finds that top concerns of voters include: unhealthy drugs and chemicals in our food; air, water and soil pollution from animal factory waste; the frequency and volume of small family farmers driven out of business by animal factories; and the abuse and inhumane treatment of animals.

The survey found that 80% of voters favor the creation of uniform, national standards to limit air and water pollution from animal factories. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Congress are all proposing tougher standards for the animal factory industry. In addition, the poll shows that sixty-six percent of voters are likely to vote for a political candidate who will enforce regulations on pollution from animal factories.

Nearly 70% of voters indicate their willingness to vote for a political candidate who supports family farmers. The 10 sponsoring public interest organizations, and their contacts, included Americans for the Environment, Dan Barry, 202-797-6663; Clean Water Action of Minnesota, Marie Zellar, 612-623-3666; Clean Water Network, Merritt Frey, 202-289-2392; Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Mike Hirshfield, 410-268-8816; Conservation Council of North Carolina, John Runkle, 919-942-0600; Defenders of Wildlife, Bob Ferris, 202-682-9400; The Humane Society of the United States, Brett West, 301-548-7778; Southern Environmental Law Center, Michelle Nowlin, 919-967-1450; Sierra Club, Ed Hopkins, 202-675-7908; and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Alison Fox, 202-546-9707.

BIG DAIRY PROTESTS AID PLAN. A group of large-scale New Mexico dairy farmers filed a lawsuit May 28 to protest a USDA assistance package that sets a limit of $5,000 in aid per dairy. The aid is part of a package passed last year by Congress and is meant to help dairy farmers who saw milk prices drop by more than one-third this spring. However, other farm organizations, including the National Farmers Union (NFU), support the USDA method of distributing $200 million in assistance through a one-time payment of about 19 cents per hundred pounds of milk produced, up to the first 150 cows.

Not all large-scale dairy producers are dissatisfied with the cap put on payments by USDA. Dairy producer members of California Farmers Union (CAFU) milk an average of 600 cows, but the organization supports the cap. "If there were no limits, many of our farmers would get more money, but smaller producers would get next to nothing," said CAFU President Scott Magneson. "On the other hand, if every dairy farmer got the same amount, regardless of herd size, payments would be under $2,000 per producer. The USDA plan is a good balance between small and large producers."

Producer milk prices in 1999 are approximately the same as they were 20 years ago, but input costs have risen dramatically. As a result, many producers have silently gone out of business in the last several years.

Home Page

News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 1999 The Progressive Populist