SCANLON: Green groups prepare environmental scare

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The newly elected Republican Congress has wasted no time flexing its muscles, moving aggressively to attack Obamacare. Less reported is the simultaneous GOP assault on that Orwellian bureaucratic leviathan the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has made itself as much a threat to liberty and economic health as Kathleen Sebelius’ Department of Health and Human Services.

In December 2009, the Obama EPA used Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act to justify its finding that “current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide (CO2), “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.” Having thus declared this naturally occurring compound - which is necessary for life, incidentally - a “threat,” EPA has begun, the Hill newspaper reports, “phasing in rules that require large new and modified industrial plants to minimize emissions and is crafting broader national emissions standards for power plants and refineries,” saddling industry with additional costs and red tape that inevitably will be paid by consumers in the form of higher energy prices and by workers in the form of fewer jobs.

Draft legislation co-sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, is just one of several proposals circulating on Capitol Hill designed to stop the EPA dead in its tracks before it can do any more damage to our still-reeling economy. Specifically, GOP lawmakers want to nullify all EPA actions already taken on the matter, prohibit the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions, and ensure that the Obama administration does not enact a carbon tax by bureaucratic fiat (“cap-and-trade” legislation having failed so spectacularly in the last Congress).

But environmentalists are not taking this counterattack on the great Green church and its high priests at the EPA lying down. Instead, they have launched a new public relations campaign of their own. The message has shifted from “saving the planet from global warming” to “protecting our health from those nasty polluters.” That’s right, the Greens are bundling those two most cherished liberal fetishes, health and the environment. As Health Care Without Harm’s Brenda Afzal helpfully explains, “Failure to allow EPA to safeguard our air supply exposes thousands of people with chronic illnesses, including our children, to increased health episodes.”

Health Care Without Harm and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have thus joined together to put pressure on 123 members of Congress who have publicly opposed the EPA carbon regulations, including Rep. Cory Gardner, Colorado Republican, and Rep. Mike Ross, Arkansas Democrat. Clearly, the Greens have some focus-group data that they think shows red-state soccer moms and NASCAR dads susceptible to such blatant scaremongering. And they may be right.

But before skittish parents put their trust in the likes of the NRDC - a massive, multiarm organization with total assets exceeding $235 million, according to audited financial statements - consider the history: In 1986, the NRDC launched a public attack on Alar, a compound used on apple trees to protect the fruit and extend the harvest season. Despite decades of testing and use showing Alar to be safe, the NRDC claimed to have evidence that the product was dangerous and asked the EPA to declare the compound an “imminent hazard.”

AsJay Lehr and Sam Aldrich wrote in “Alar: The Great Apple Scare,” “Within a short time, apple juice and apple sauce were thrown away. Apples were taken out of school lunches, and parents on the border of hysteria called the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about risks of cancer to their children … sales and prices of all apples declined sharply.” Fortunately, a special review panel rejected the NRDC’s scurrilous evidence, but not before “farmers went bankrupt.” And not before thousands of children went without their apple, which as we all know, “keeps the doctor away.” Hey, two can play at the scaremongering game.

Terrence Scanlon is president of the Capital Research Center.

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