In election years, interest groups across the political spectrum issue report cards that grade lawmakers according to how they voted on measures important to the groups. A new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, labels 13 members of Congress from Ohio and eight lawmakers from Michigan "dirty air villains," based on votes they cast against 13 bills the NRDC says would have helped curb air pollution.
That list includes U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, House Speaker John Boehner, and Rep. Bob Latta of Ohio, and Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan, whose district includes Lenawee and Hillsdale counties. All are Republicans.
In all, 193 members of the House and 39 in the Senate -- all Republicans -- got that negative label. By contrast, the NRDC called 99 Democrats in the House and 43 in the Senate "clean air heroes."
Three of them are from Ohio: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and Reps. Betty Sutton and Dennis Kucinich. Five are from Michigan, including Sen. Carl Levin.
The NRDC study concludes that House members who have accepted more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from polluters during their tenure have voted against clean-air laws nearly twice as often as those who accepted less. In the Senate, those who have taken more than $500,000 from polluters throughout their careers were three times as likely to vote against clean-air laws.
The group claimed Mr. Latta's campaigns have taken $200,650 from polluters; Mr. Portman, $672,868; Mr. Boehner $1.8 million, and Mr. Walberg, $181,281. The NRDC insinuation is that many foes of clean-air laws are not just following the GOP platform of less-onerous regulation, but are allowing their vision to be clouded by special-interest campaign contributions, at the expense of public health and environmental protection.
Reasonable environmental controls help save money on such things as the rising cost of health care. Rather than sidetrack or dismantle pollution laws, lawmakers should offer incentives to companies to adopt more-efficient pollution-control technology.
DTE Energy's $1 billion, decade-old upgrade of its coal-fired power plant in Monroe -- one of the nation's largest -- put hundreds of people to work and improved regional air quality. It also provided greater economic stability for one of this area's largest employers.
Curbing air pollution may not make some campaign contributors happy. But it's good business for Ohio and Michigan, two energy-intensive states.