Candidates asked to sign pledge supporting clean-air enforcement
Environmental groups focus on Cornyn, Kirk
By RANDY LEE LOFTIS
The Dallas Morning News
Environmental groups called Wednesday for Republican John Cornyn and
Democrat Ron Kirk to say they would press for tougher air-pollution
enforcement if elected to the U.S. Senate.
A Cornyn spokesman said the Texas attorney general favors President Bush's
clean-air strategy, which relies more on cooperation with industry than on
Mr. Kirk, in a statement released by the former Dallas mayor's campaign,
promised broadly to support clean air without making any specific
A coalition of 18 national, state and local environmental groups asked each
candidate to sign a pledge supporting a federal crackdown on older power
plants and opposing Mr. Bush's relaxation of pollution rules when utilities
upgrade those old plants.
They also sought a commitment to fight power-plant emissions that obscure
vistas in Texas' Big Bend and other national parks.
"Talk is cheap," said Rita Beving of the Dallas Sierra Club, one the groups
that signed a letter to the candidates. "We want some absolute commitments
to clean air."
The groups' Dallas news conference was part of a national effort by
environmentalists to outflank Mr. Bush, who last week proposed letting
older, dirtier power plants avoid deep pollution cuts and associated costs
when they upgrade equipment.
Mr. Bush said the existing rules, called new-source review, are too costly
and bureaucratic. Environmentalists called them the backbone of the Clean
An umbrella organization of environmental groups said it planned to launch a
TV issue-ad in Houston on Wednesday linking Mr. Cornyn to the president's
"weakening" of clean-air rules. But David Beckwith, Mr. Cornyn's campaign
spokesman, said the Bush plan would hasten environmental improvements by
avoiding years-long court fights.
"We're backing the Bush approach," Mr. Beckwith said. "We think we can get
more done by cooperating."
Mr. Kirk said in his statement that he was concerned about clean air and
water. But he didn't say how he would vote on new-source review or other
"We need a balanced approach, and I believe that we can support the needs of
our growing economy and our need to improve our air and water quality," he
Environmentalists are targeting Senate races because the chamber, now
controlled by Democrats, has become a check on the administration's
environmental agenda, said Renee Kullberg, North Texas field director for
the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
In April, the Senate blocked a White House plan to drill for oil and gas in
Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Mr. Cornyn favored the refuge drilling plan, as did retiring incumbent Sen.
Phil Gramm, also a Republican. Mr. Kirk opposed it.
Mr. Bush's plan to relax pollution rules for older power plants might lead
to the next big showdown, said Katy Hubener, executive director of the Blue
Skies Alliance, a North Texas environmental group. "The Senate is where Bush
will likely have to win or lose this fight," she said.
Fair Use Notice