A top Carter admininistration official has charged Mobil Oil Corp. and other critics of federal regulation with conducting a frequently misleading and strident campaign designed to gut the nation's health and environmental programs.
Gus Speth, chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, in remarks propared for delivery today, specifically cited a massive Mobil advertising program as an example of that campaign.
"Some of the ads give away their true nature by taking the form of fables; others are just are mythical and remote from reality," Speth said, referring to Mobil newspaper and magazine pitches.
In addition to his criticism of Mobil, Speth accused United States Steel Corp. of "scrapegoatery" in advertising which suggested that stringent environmental regulations were responsible for the closing of 16 of the company's plants.
Instead of saying the closings were the result of complex economic factors, the U.S. Steel experience "is perverted into becoming a horrible example of what happens when government regulation requires environmental protection, or permits foreign competition.
"What is not stated is that Japanese steel, the major competitor, is produced under environmental protection restrictions that are more stringent than our own, or that trade barriers, high or low, are forms of government regulation."
Speth's remarks, prepared by an address to the fifth National Conference of the Environmental Industry Council, are unusually strong, particularly since Speth is President Carter's top White House environmental adviser.
Herbert Schmertz, who has been a part-time adviser to Sen. Edward Kennedy's presiential campaign, is credited with developing the widely known Mobil ads about big government.
Speth, a former environmental activists, was appointed CEQ chairman last year. He said that some of these regulatory critics are "merely using regulatory reform as a kind of shibboleth masking their real motivation, which is to pull the teeth from health and evironmental programs.
"These critics hide their intentions under a flourish of slick public relations sophistries which, for lack of a better word, I might call the imMOBILization of truth," he said.
Speth said that Mobil has spent "hundred of thousands, if not millions" on its "rather strident advertising campaign."
In addition to chiding regulatory critics, Speth urged policymakers and business representatives to keep in mind the severity of continuing environmental problems.
"The issues that persist today are not just questions of esthetics, or comfort, or an idealized notion of "the good life'; they are clear threats to the health and welfare of the American people," he said. "They simply cannot be put aside until a time when it is more convenient to focus on them."
Speth further said the current antiregulatory movement "rings awfully hollow" in light of "continuing revelations of corporate neglect or worse," and pointed out that stepped-up government programs stem from a public call for federal action.