Mountain States

NRDC Attack on Colorado’s Ozone Data Hints at Bigger Campaign

Senior NRDC attorney’s reaction to Colorado state regulator’s critique of air quality report

A senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) today called Colorado state regulators “silly” for their criticisms of the American Lung Association’s (ALA) 2015 air report. The comment came when NRDC’s attorney engaged Energy In Depth (EID) over Twitter to attack Will Allison, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) Director, whose criticisms of the ALA report were published yesterday in an EID blog. The NRDC took issue with Allison’s critique of the ALA’s data analysis, in which he said:

“The report uses 2011-2013 averaging periods for ozone, but we already have data for 2014 ozone. Ozone levels went down significantly in 2014. But that’s not accounted for in the report. At a high level, 2014 was a very good year for ozone, meaning we had comparatively low ozone levels.”

screenshot.41 Notably, the NRDC attorney admitted that state regulators have expressed concerns for years with ALA’s annual report and reluctantly conceded “congratulations for the progress” when confronted with the 2014 data left out by the ALA report card for Colorado.  

It is no surprise that NRDC is coming to the ALA’s defense. ALA and NRDC are part of a group of activists who sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), urging the agency to tighten the ozone standard to a level as low as 60 parts per billion (ppb), which would put almost all of Colorado and the country out of business.

In fact, Margo Thorning, senior vice president and chief economist for The American Council for Capital Formation, noted in a recent op-ed that:

“According to NERA Economic Consulting, the expenses involved in meeting this goal would reduce U.S. gross domestic product by $140 billion a year, or $1.7 trillion between 2017 and 2040. The regulation would cost the average household $830 annually, and result in 1.4 million fewer jobs being created by 2040. It would be detrimental to an economy still struggling to recover from a recession.”

But Thorning was writing based on a standard of between 65 and 70 ppb. Reducing the ozone standard to 60 ppb, which ALA and NRDC are advocating for, would cost much more. In fact,  a recent economic analysis from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) found that lowering the standard to 60 ppb “would be the most expensive regulation ever imposed on the American public.”

The relationship between these groups is noteworthy, because it’s part of a coordinated campaign between ALA, NRDC and the EPA. The partnership was detailed in a recent Washington Times op-ed:

“In a late January 2011 email, the Natural Resources Defense Council provided EPA officials with ‘confidential’ messaging data to help advance their ideologically aligned agenda. NRDC claimed that the Environmental Defense Fund had already presented the information to Obama adviser David ‘Axelrod and a couple other [White House] staff (at their request).’ NRDC attached a ‘topline memo’ detailing what messages to use — in short, recast global warming policy as a solution to air pollution. It similarly noted the American Lung Association polled as the most trusted organization to lead a campaign. When the EPA rolled out these rules last June, it did so via a call with the president hosted by the American Lung Association.”

While ALA might sue EPA, that does not stop them from accepting millions of dollars in grant money from the agency to carry out their bidding.  The minority staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works last year released a report revealing that ALA receives millions of dollars from the EPA. The EPW report found that:

“The American Lung Association (ALA) receives the most Obama-EPA grants among environmental groups the Committee reviewed, totaling nearly $14 million since 2009. Over the last ten years, ALA has racked in $20,405,655 in EPA grants. Yet, ALA has been a main litigant against EPA, frequently suing the Agency only to reach a cozy settlement agreement while taxpayers foot the bill for ALA’s legal fees. Moreover, since federal agencies are forbidden from lobbying, one scholar suggests that ALA acts as a surrogate to lobby for the EPA in exchange for generous grants, stating:  “To survive, if not thrive, the ALA needed a source of revenue.  The solution: selling its reputation as an organization only interested in promoting and protecting ‘the public interest’ to government agencies and commercial firms.  By lobbying and engaging in political advocacy under the halo of ‘charity,’ the ALA sought to revive its fortunes.”

Perhaps that is why a senior attorney for the NRDC reacted so swiftly to a state regulator challenging the findings in the latest ALA report. As the anointed mouthpiece of the coalition to push for dramatically lower ozone standards, ALA’s sterling reputation must be kept intact at all cost. Unfortunately for both, Denver Post columnist and editorial page editor Vincent Carroll has also weighed in on the issue, forcing the ALA to backtrack:

“So how about it, lung association? After further checking at my request, a group spokeswoman backtracked, confirming that ‘ozone is not worse than in the 1970s.’ Indeed.”

With credible state regulators and respected columnists actively challenging ALA’s report armed with facts, EID expects to see the NRDC spending a lot more time on Twitter.


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