More Misleading Attack Ads by the Sierra Club

In recent weeks, the Sierra Club initiated another political ad campaign filled with distortions, misrepresentations and flat-out falsehoods. Since the environment has already become an issue in this year’s presidential elections, the allegations made in this campaign commercial need to be given an honest evaluation.

The attack ad makes several charges about the Texas environment, all of which fall flat in light of the facts.

Viewers are presented with the claim that Texas faces “a crisis situation.” Texas, like most states, still faces environmental challenges, but it is hardly in a “crisis.” In fact, according to any number of measurements things have improved significantly. Air quality violations have fallen by 25 percent since 1995, and toxic releases were cut by almost 43 million pounds — the best record in the country.

In an election year, honest and objective facts are sometimes sacrificed for political objectives

Another statement made in the ad is that “Texas has the most industrial air pollution in the nation.” Data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows this charge to be a complete falsehood. According to the Toxic Release Inventory, published by the EPA on May 11, Texas’ industrial air emissions are 25 percent lower than the leading offender — even in absolute terms. On a more objective pounds-per-person measurement — a measurement used by the Sierra Club in their own publications — Texas ranks 28th in the nation, with 6.1 pounds of toxic air emissions per person. Al Gore’s home state of Tennessee actually ranks worse — third worst in the country to be exact — with more than 19 pounds per person. If the Sierra Club actually cares about air quality, and not just Texas-bashing, it seems as though they need to pick a new target.

The ad goes on to charge that “All of our lakes — all have water quality problems.” It might be interesting to discover just what the Sierra Club defines as a “problem” since the EPA disagrees so conclusively with their assessment. According to the EPA’s National Water Quality Inventory, 78 percent of surveyed lakes, reservoirs, and ponds in Texas are given the best rating possible. By contrast, the national average is only 61 percent.

The ad also claims that “Texas leads the nation in the number of factories violating clean water standards.” Since Texas has far more major facilities than any other state in the country, this statement is somewhat misleading. In fact, on a more accurate percentage basis, Texas is in better shape than 18 other states, with only 31 percent of its major facilities in non-compliance. Once again, Tennessee is in worse shape, with 42 percent.

Finally, the Sierra Club states that Texas “has too many children on breathing machines, too many people with asthma.” Asthma is a serious disease that can ruin lives, but almost any doctor — along with the American Lung Association — will tell you that asthma has many causes including allergies, respiratory infections caused by viruses, weather conditions, and perhaps most importantly, the quality of indoor air. It is utterly shameful to see the Sierra Club cynically exploit the tragedy of childhood asthma to advance their political agenda.

In an election year, honest and objective facts are sometimes sacrificed for political objectives. In this case, the Sierra Club has made the truth about the Texas environment one of the first victims.