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Special Interests: Judy Sarasohn

Clean Air Act in Peril, Head of New Group Says

By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, February 3, 2005; Page A25

As Congress takes up President Bush's "Clear Skies" initiative and the administration works on pollution regulations, a new enviro group has emerged to dog the issue.

Frank O'Donnell has split from Clean Air Trust, where he had been executive director for more than nine years, to form the new Clean Air Watch. Both nonprofits have the mission of educating the public about the value of clean air and of protecting the Clean Air Act from efforts to weaken it.

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"Irreconcilable differences" that had nothing to do with policy was the reason for the split, say both O'Donnell and Leon G. Billings, his former boss.

"We're going to be in a pitched battle in saving the Clean Air Act. We can use all the help we can get," Billings said in an interview.

Why is the new group needed? "The Clean Air Act appears to be in unprecedented danger," O'Donnell said in an e-mail interview. "Never before have we seen a situation in which opponents of a strong Clean Air Act are in charge not only at the White House . . . but also chair both key congressional committees."

He added that he believes there is no single other group "that has both the dedicated purpose of defending a strong clean air act and the communication skill to explain to the public why this is an important issue."

Bush's "Clear Skies" legislation aims to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury by 70 percent, but not until after 2018. Critics say the White House plan would do nothing to curb emissions linked to global warming and would undermine existing air-quality standards and enforcement tools. Supporters tout the legislation as a responsible effort to improve air quality without unduly cumbersome and complex regulations.

Always available to explain air-quality issues to reporters, O'Donnell has a background in broadcast and print news and is a former producer of the "Ten O'Clock News" on Fox Television's Channel 5 in Washington. He also appeared in "Outfoxed," the critical documentary about the Fox news organization.

O'Donnell said Clean Air Watch has received start-up support from some philanthropists who want to stay in the background, but he said it has no corporate funding.

Former Staffers Return to Hill

When the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee calls on his former staffers to leave the private sector to serve their country again . . . well, they often come running.

Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) has brought back three of his former staffers from the lobbying world. Most notably: Frank Cushing, as staff director, after working a couple of years at Cornerstone Government Affairs.

Former Lewis people Jeff Shockey and Dave LesStrang are also returning to serve as deputy staff directors. Shockey is leaving Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton & Shockey, and LesStrang is leaving the government affairs office of EMC Corp.

Former Officials Join Forces

Former House member George R. Nethercutt (R-Wash.) and former Interior deputy secretary J. Steven Griles are joining forces with former White House energy policy adviser Andrew Lundquist to turn his lobby shop, the Lundquist Group, into Lundquist, Nethercutt & Griles.

Lundquist served during President Bush's first term as director of the National Energy Policy Development Group, led by Vice President Cheney. He is also a former aide to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and a former staff director of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

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