From the strange bedfellows file: Left-leaning Ozone Action and pro-business Competitive Enterprise Institute agree on something. Sort of. The two groups occupy polar opposite ends of a hybrid coalition lined up to oppose a bill before the U.S. Senate that would give credits to companies that voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions in advance of Kyoto Protocol implementation.

These guys don’t make a habit of staking out similar positions. However, from time to time in Washington, legislation that ambles down the pike is so noxious to groups on either side of an issue (often an indication that it might actually make sense) that they get together and happily whack it into oblivion.

According to Ozone Action, the bill (S. 547), sponsored by Sens. John Chafee (R-R.I.), Connie Mack (R-Fla.), and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), would do more harm than good and allow widespread abuse by polluters. Ozone Action Executive Director John Passacantando (who in congressional testimony made a point of touting his conservative credentials as a longtime aide to supply-side guru Jude Wanniski) calls the bill a “Band-Aid” approach to the climate change problem. For its part, CEI is less than thrilled with the notion of anticipating adoption of a global warming treaty it loathes — a treaty that has not yet been submitted to, much less ratified by, the Senate.

A Senate source knowledgeable about the bill’s future takes heart that “fringe” groups like Ozone Action and CEI are aligned in opposition, and says that the bill’s authors will sit down with more “mainstream” types soon to iron out some “legitimate concerns” about the legislation. Look for the bill to start moving sometime after Memorial Day.

Burning Bush

A showdown is brewing in Texas as the state legislature grapples with the issue of aging industrial plants that were exempted in 1971 from strict pollution controls. Lone Star State enviros are pressuring Gov. George W. Bush (R) to extend his brand of compassionate conservatism to the environment and support legislation that would close the grandfather clause and require older plants to toe the line. And they are getting themselves arrested in the process.

Rick Abraham of Texans United Education Fund says he was arrested and charged with “blocking a sidewalk” while protesting outside the governor’s mansion late last month, as the issue was being discussed in the House Environmental Regulations Committee. The question, of course, is how much press are the protestors generating? A quick Muckraker survey turned up several articles from Texas newspapers on the emissions issue, two of which mentioned Abraham and his tangle with the Long Arm of the Law. In the colorful tradition of Bob Dole irritant Butt Man, the enviros unveiled Fat Cat and Mr. Smokestack to suggest that Bush is in the pocket of industry contributors and that well-paid lobbyists regularly swarm the legislature working to keep pollution standards at bay, or at least voluntary. (Muckraker approves of, and is anxious to hear about, all exploits of cartoon-style characters and other blatant media gimmicks.)

Abraham is out of the clink, fighting the arrest, and prepared to keep showing up on Bush’s doorstep. Meanwhile, Ken Kramer of the Sierra Club in Texas says it looks like a version of the bill that would keep compliance voluntary will prevail and read the House floor, where a nasty little dustup is expected.

Chafee Watch

Fear and loathing rule the environmental roost these days in anticipation of Sen. Chafee’s retirement and the possible ascension of Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.) to chair the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Muckraker suggests a simple remedy: Elect Smith president. Anyone worried about this situation should head to Iowa or New Hampshire and get busy on Smith’s behalf. A couple of surprise primary victories combined with some lucky front-runner stumbling (maybe Fat Cat will provoke Bush into a campaign-crippling gaffe) and, just maybe, Mr. Smith will go to the White House. Which could led to a Chair James Inhofe (R-Okla.) …

Kyoto Haiku Contest

Muckraker knows this Kyoto business can be a bit baffling. Can anyone give our readers a concise crash course in what, exactly, was decided at the Kyoto conference, what it means, and how it was affected by the 1998 follow-up meeting in Buenos Aires? In haiku? Send us creative entries. Clearest, most accurate, and most lyrical response wins. Winning entry will appear in this space and perhaps Muckraker t-shirts will follow for future contests.