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More from hot air activist Frank O'Donnell

By Michael Fumento

Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, has responded to my Weekly Standard article "More Hot Air from the EPA" and a shorter version I ran in the Washington Times. He wrote that I took his 1997 words saying talk of regulating lawn mowers was "crazed propaganda" that was "completely out of context, declaring that back then: "The Associated Press noted that the industry-funded Citizens for a Sound Economy [now Freedomworks] 'began airing aggressive television and radio ads hammering home another lobbying theme: that new air standards would curtail the lifestyles of Americans with bans on outdoor barbecues, lawnmowers and fireworks, and set limits on the plowing of farm fields. "At the time," he continued, "I referred to these claims as 'crazed propaganda,' and I was right. Last time I looked, we were still barbecuing, enjoying fireworks and mowing our lawns."

Thanks for digging yourself into a deeper hole, Mr. O'Donnell.

Both the alleged AP story and the source of his quote (a Maine newspaper) are from 1997 and not available on the web, but the only CFSE or Freedomworks references I found to bans regarding these items was a response to an EPA official's statement that "it's theoretically possible that a state could restrict activities like barbecuing to comply with the new federal standards."

To this, Citizens pointed out that commercial barbecues are already outlawed in some southern California communities, "and if jurisdictions don't have enough other sources of particulate matter to reduce, then who's to say barbecues won't be on some bureaucrat's list of banned behavior?"

Who, then, is being quoted out of context?

Indeed, as a result of those then-proposed Clean Air Act Amendments that O'Donnell was defending, the EPA established National Ambient Air Quality Standards, or concentration limits, for two sizes of particulate matter. Multiple violations of these standards can lead to a "nonattainment" designation for an area, with penalties if there is no reduction in overall ambient particulate matter. There was no exemption for barbecues, as indeed lawnmowers have never been exempted from ambient air regulations.

We also know that Southern California had ALREADY begun regulating barbecue briquettes and starter fluid for private barbecues, just as the EPA had already proposed tightening restrictions on lawnmowers. Since then, California has also begun regulating the barbecues on the basis of ODOR!

Farm sources of particulates do include plowing; therefore non-attainment areas have the legal right to put limits on them.

Fireworks, which produce fine particles upon combustion, are therefore also covered under the Ambient Air Quality Standards. Some environmental groups and newspapers have called for an outright ban on them, based strictly on their alleged hazard to breathing.

Lest you ever be tempted to believe the least thing Frank O'Donnell or his "Ban first; ask questions later group," remember their emissions of crazed propaganda.

November 2, 2006 12:08 AM  ·  Environment