Apologies dear reader, this is a long post. It’s worth reading, though, we promise!
With few exceptions (like this weak WSJ column), the folks defending Exxon from RICO accusations focus their attention on the free speech argument and avoid the tobacco comparison. But now one of their own, Dr. James Enstrom, has provided a painfully clear connection between the beleaguered industries.
The Daily Caller carries the news that the Energy & Environment Legal Institute’s (EELI) latest attempt to waste its (probably coal) funders' money is a lawsuit against the EPA, claiming an independent review panel for air quality regulations isn’t actually independent. Their reason is that members of the panel have received funding from the EPA for past studies.
Obviously, that’s ridiculous, since public and private funding are vastly different in terms of conflict of interest.
So what does a real conflict of interest look like? For a prime example, look no further than the plaintiffs EELI is representing: The Western States Trucking Association (WSTA) and Dr. James Enstrom.
[Continued after the jump!]
Now, the WSTA has a legitimate stake here, as the regulation in question deals with particulate matter emissions from trucks, so the organization's members would face a cost to upgrade their trucks to meet stricter EPA standards. Fine.
But who is Dr. James Enstrom? Oh, he's just your run of the mill epidemiologist who took funding from tobacco giant Philip Morris and produced a study in 2003 downplaying the connection between second-hand smoke and cancer. Enstrom was such a pivotal player in the pro-smoking propaganda that when the Department of Justice wrapped up its successful RICO case against the tobacco industry, it dedicated an entire chapter to Enstrom—one of just three researchers to receive such a distinction. (H/T DeSmog)
A search of his name in the Tobacco Industry Documents database returns over 500,000 results. An LA Times article notes that Enstrom became “Exhibit A” in the fight between the tobacco industry and anti-smoking activists, a prime example of how the tobacco industry funded friendly studies for PR and lobbying purposes.
Since then, Dr. Enstrom has turned his attention to other epidemiology questions, namely the dangers from particulate matter. And who funded his work? None other than an electric utility group, which used his study to argue against stricter PM standards that would force utilities to reduce the pollution from coal plants.
So even as the fossil fuel industry fights off RICO accusations and denies the tobacco parallels, its surrogate EELI is fighting to give “Exhibit A” from the tobacco corruption case a chance to use his industry-funded science to shape the EPA’s regulations.
Though connecting the dots between tobacco corruption and fossil fuels looks like a colossal own-goal, maybe EELI isn’t as foolish as this makes them seem. After all, if the fossil fuel industry needs to defend itself from a RICO suit like the tobacco industry did, surely EELI will offer their services?
And odds are slim they’d do it pro bono…
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