The ad war over EPA’s climate rule has begun

A coal-fired power plant in Brilliant, Ohio. (Michael Williamson/The Washington Post)
A coal-fired power plant in Brilliant, Ohio. (Michael Williamson/The Washington Post)

The Environmental Protection Agency’s draft rule to limit carbon from existing power plants is just two days old, but it’s already sparked an ad war.

The American Lung Association today will launch a national television ad buy featuring a sleeping baby drawing deep breaths, touting the fact that the regulation would close the “loophole” that allows industry to “pump unlimited carbon pollution into his air.”

Meanwhile the Environmental Policy Alliance, a group with ties to prominent conservative donors including the Lynde and Harry Bradley and the Searle Foundations, has run full-page print ads this week in Politico and USA Today comparing “Obama’s EPA” to terrorists and anarchists who would shut down a quarter of the nation’s electric grid.

Lyndsay Moseley, who directs the American Lung Association’s Healthy Air Campaign, said in an interview the group had made a “six-figure buy” for the "Mother's Instinct" spot, which will appear on the major Sunday news shows as well as other news shows on cable channels such as CNN, FOX News, MSNBC and Comedy Central.

“Our ad shows the health of our kids are absolutely in the balance when it comes to cleaning up power plant pollution, and that includes carbon pollution,” Moseley said.

She said aging, coal-fired plants not only emit traditional pollutants linked to heart attacks, lung disease and cancer, but the warmer temperatures driven by climate change have “a direct impact on conditions for ozone formation,” or smog. Smog exacerbates lung illnesses, such as asthma.

The Environmental Policy Alliance, a subsidiary of another group called the Center for Organizational Research and Education (CORE) that is run out of the D.C.-based PR firm Berman and Company, has been running a campaign against the EPA since March. In an earlier incarnation CORE had been named The Center for Consumer Freedom, an organization originally formed by Phillip Morris to fight smoking bans in restaurants.

Anastasia Swearingen, a senior research analyst for the Environmental Policy Alliance, said in an interview Tuesday this week’s print ad campaign “is part of exposing the impact of EPA regulations on American electric bills and U.S. electricity security.”

Swearingen, reached by phone at Berman and Company’s office, would not say how many employees her group or other aspects of its operation. “We do not discuss who funds any of our particular campaigns or how much the budget is for our campaigns,” she said.

Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.

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