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Published: Saturday, 9/13/2003

Dingell to miss Bush visit to Monroe

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

Given the choice to hear some high-powered rhetoric on money, electricity, or air, Rep. John Dingell will be going for the gold.

Mr. Dingell, who is the dean of the U.S. House of Representatives and the ranking Democrat of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, received competing invitations for events Monday in his congressional district.

One was from the White House, which is organizing a midday presidential visit to Detroit Edison Co.'s coal-fired power plant in Monroe, and the other was from the Detroit Economic Club, which is hosting a luncheon in Dearborn with U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans as the keynote speaker.

Mr. Dingell of Dearborn will attend the Evans speech.

“He was committed to seeing the secretary of commerce for a week and a half. He wants to hear the administration's plans for reviving the manufacturing sector. We only got an invitation from the White House yesterday,” Rick Kessler, Mr. Dingell's chief of staff, said yesterday.

Mr. Kessler said Mr. Dingell invited Mr. Bush to return to the state soon for another event.

Mr. Dingell toured the same plant the President will visit in the wake of the massive power outage that struck the Midwest, Northeast, and Canada last month.

Jim Morrell, White House spokesman, said Mr. Bush will speak on energy and environmental issues at the plant, which is in the midst of a $700 million improvement project to significantly reduce emissions that cause smog.

David Gard, energy policy specialist with the Michigan Environmental Council, said the improvements at the plant were “a great thing, a very necessary thing,” but he was critical of the Bush administration's environmental record.

“I am very disappointed by the Bush record so far on air quality. Their Clear Skies proposals are a good example of the damage being done to the Clean Air Act,” he said. “The problem with Clear Skies is that it has standards that are weaker than the [existing] Clean Air Act would be over time.”

The Clear Skies proposal includes changes in the federal regulations governing power-generating plant emissions. According to a report on the Environmental Protection Agency Web site, it would result in cleaner air while allowing for an expansion of the power industry, among other things.

Debbie Boger, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, disagrees with the EPA assessment. She said the Bush administration “has a history of misrepresenting his environmental policies. He says he wants to cut down on global warming, but he proposes policies that would do the opposite. I think the public will see right through his plan.”

“When the President proposed his energy plan in 2001, it was heavily dependent on more drilling for oil, more mining for coal, and more nuclear power plants,” she said.

Local Democrats are planning protests of the presidential visit. The Lucas County Democratic Party headquarters will be open tomorrow afternoon to make signs for a Monday protest, party Chairman Paula Ross said.

Protesters will gather Monday morning at the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 671 hall on Detroit Avenue in Monroe, Ms. Ross said. “The [protest] event starts when the President shows up,” she said.



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