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May/June 1997
Volume 15, Number 5

Breathing Easy
Thomas DiLorenzo

Some scientists boycotted a recent conference that examined the EPA's draconian proposal to regulate ultra-small soot particles. The sponsoring organization, the Annapolis Center, gets corporate money. According to Harvard epidemiologist Joel Schwartz, that makes the event look "like a set-up job."

The Center denies trying to set anybody up, but the EPA's proposal--backed by Dr. Schwartz who received more than $200,000 from the EPA last year to support his research--is itself a cleverly-crafted political set-up job.

The EPA wants to impose new air standards that could spell doom for the barbecue grill, the gas-powered lawn mower, and most large trucks in the country. It says it had no choice in the matter and that its proposal is merely a response to a court order.

What it doesn't say is that the court order was obtained by an EPA grantee and political ally, the American Lung Association. For years, the EPA and the Lung Association have played a good-cop/bad-cop routine, whereby the latter sues the former to make its clean-air regulations ever more stringent.

According to data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, 19 of the Lung Association's state and local affiliates received at least $4.1 million in EPA "outreach" grants from 1990 to 1994, the latest year for which I have data. (Most of the actual operations of the Lung Association are performed by its state and local affiliates who pay 10 percent of its annual revenues to the national headquarters, which in turn distributes educational materials to the affiliates, operates regional fund-raising centers, and lobbies.)

Jonathan Adler has found that in addition to these "outreach" grants the Lung Association also received 34 grants over the past six years from the EPA Office of Research and Development. The type of "outreach" funded by these federal grants is blatantly political and possibly illegal.

For example, Newsday reported in February 1995 that "the American Lung Association is running local radio ads attacking U.S. Rep. Daniel Frisa (R-NY)" for his support of the use of benefit/cost analysis in regulatory decision making. The Hartford Courant similarly reported in that year that "the American Lung Association has targeted Gary Franks (R-CT) with a series of radio advertisements...." The Lung Association has filed "sweetheart" lawsuits against the EPA each year since 1992 for "failing to review the adequacy of national air quality rules for ozone." The current EPA proposal is the result of such a suit.

After spending tens of millions of dollars over twenty years, the Detroit Metropolitan area finally met EPA's clean air standards in 1995. Rather than applaud these efforts, the Lung Association threatened to sue EPA if it did not deny Southeast Michigan its designation as an emissions containment area.

The Lung Association has also been at the forefront of lobbying efforts at the state level to force dozens of states to adopt the "California emissions test" that is designed for the smog-plagued Los Angeles basin. Dozens of states have opposed the mandate on Tenth Amendment grounds and have condemned it as ineffective but very costly, potentially imposing thousands of dollars of repair bills on individual motorists.

Interestingly, the Lung Association has also received $200,000 from Envirotest, Inc., of Tucson, Arizona, a manufacturer of emissions testing equipment. In return for the money, the Lung Association put out public advertisements in Pennsylvania urging that Envirotest be given state contracts for the California emissions test in that state. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported that angry Pennsylvania donors to the Lung Association were "outraged" that it "was paying for ads for a private enterprise."

Lung Association lobbyists are also behind an effort to have the federal government force 12 Northeastern states and the District of Columbia to require that 10 percent of all vehicles offered for sale be electric cars. Currently, electric cars run on batteries that last no more than 4-5 hours and can power an automobile no faster than 50 miles-per-hour.

Why is the EPA paying the Lung Association millions to shill for its statist agenda? Most likely, because most Americans still perceive the Lung Association as a health "charity" and not just another appendage of the federally funded environmental lobby. Like so many other charities, the Lung Association has reoriented itself away from charitable work--it spent only 1 percent of its budget on direct assistance to lung-disease patients--to politics. Its taxpayer-funded shenanigans are a case study of how government money has ruined much of America's vaunted charitable sector.


Thomas DiLorenzo is and adjunct scholar at the Mises Institute and teaches Economics at Loyola College


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