Smoke gets in your eyes

The senator from Briggs and Stratton

You wouldn't think that air pollution would have many proponents, but then, you probably haven't met Kit Bond. Smog has a dedicated ally in the senior senator from Missouri; a New York Times article exposes Bond as a long-standing foe of regulations that would reduce the amount of smog produced by small engines by mandating the addition of a golf-ball sized catalytic converter...

Like the Michigan Congressional delegation that argued on behalf of automakers decades ago, Senator Christopher S. Bond, Republican of Missouri, has repeatedly put hurdles in front of regulators. Mr. Bond operates from a position of strength in these matters. He is chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that controls the budgets of agencies like the E.P.A. and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

While Briggs & Stratton is based in Wisconsin, it has two factories in Missouri. The possibility that increased costs will squeeze tight profit margins has led Mr. Bond to argue that tightening small-engine standards nationally would take 1,750 jobs from his constituents and send them to China.

Briggs & Stratton has employed a two-pronged scare tactic, claiming (one) that a catalytic converter would present a fire hazard, and (two) that such a mandate would force them to raise prices "across their product line" by at least 30 percent. Both B & S and its legislative servitor, Bond, are guilty here of what George Bush famously called "the soft bigotry of low expectations"; they would have you believe that the hard-working employees of Briggs & Stratton just aren't smart enough to engineer a converter device that would safely reduce emissions, and at a reasonable price. Never mind that four other small engine makers seem to have managed the engineering side of it, and never mind that the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the addition of a convertor would mean an average increase of only $20 to 25 per machine.

As initial objections fall before actual science, Bond has engaged in a series of legislative efforts to delay and limit the adoption of new regulations, just as Briggs & Stratton seeks to obstruct progress by calling for yet another bought-and-paid-for study. It remains to be seen if their efforts will stop the EPA from doing its job.

Addendum: It should be noted that Democrat Herb Kohl, a senator actually from the home state of Briggs & Stratton, voted in 2003 to support a Bond-backed measure to obstruct tougher small-engine smog regulations.
(Cross-posted for your convenience...)

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