John McCaslin

There were mostly amused expressions on the faces of D.C. shoppers at the checkout counter of one major grocery chain Monday as they read the latest headline in the Globe: “Suicidal Bush's midnight calls to Condi - 'I need you!' he pleads.”

Hopefully, former President George W.Bush and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, are chuckling, too.

$30 MILLION AWARD

”Wait,” asks our Environmental Protection Agency source, “they're promiscuously dispensing elementary school-style certificates to grown men?”

The source was referring to a memorandum from EPA senior official Craig E. Hooks to headquarters employees, the subject: “Call for EPA hero nominations.”

“In honor of Earth Day 2009,” the memo reads, “EPA headquarters will recognize exceptional employees ... engaging in activities that help ... reduce the overall impact on the environment - including carbon footprint. All employees who regularly engage in at least six of the following eight practices at home or in the office are eligible for nomination as an EPA Earth Day Hero.”

Among the eight: using reusable coffee mugs, water containers and bags; turning off lights, powering down computers and shutting off appliances when not in use; recycling paper, plastics and other materials; and composting kitchen products. Nominations must be submitted by Thursday, and not to worry: “Self-nominations for this recognition program are welcome.”

Earth Day heroes will receive a certificate and be recognized during Earth Day activities at Federal Triangle and on the EPA's Web site.

Otherwise, Inside the Beltway can't help but notice that nomination forms are being sent to a private contractor, ERG, a consulting firm hired by the EPA. In fact, we've discovered that ERG recently won a $30 million, five-year contract with the EPA's Climate Change Division.

“The contract is ERG's third similar EPA climate change award in 10 years,” ERG boasts on its Web site. “Under the multiple-award contract, ERG will provide technical and outreach support services to EPA for domestic and global climate change initiatives.”

REAGAN APPROACH

Every few years, the same old complaints are sounded - usually after a fresh batch of congressmen representing Western states have served on Capitol Hill long enough to grow tired of being inconvenienced.

This time, this group of congressmen has introduced the Reagan National Airport Fairness Act of 2009, which if passed would allow more nonstop access to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport for passengers from the West.

Flights into the already congested airport along the banks of the Potomac River, practically a stone's throw away from the dome of the U.S. Capitol, are restricted by a “perimeter rule” that limits nonstop flights from cities located more than 1,250 miles from the nation's capital.

Rep. Harry E. Mitchell - the Arizona Democrat who, with other Western lawmakers, has just introduced the legislation - argues that the rule was originally created to encourage passenger use at Washington Dulles International Airport after it opened in the distant Virginia suburbs.

Congress has relaxed some flight restrictions into Reagan Airport, allowing a few nonstop flights from Western cities, such as Los Angeles.

SHORT WALK

”Pigfoot will be on hand to entertain, along with porcine pals Winnie and Dudley” says Citizens Against Government Waste, referring to mascots that will appear at the National Press Club for the April 14 release of the annual pink book that makes politicians squirm.

The 2009 Congressional Pig Book will highlight the most egregious examples of pork-barrel spending in the federal budget. Last year's book identified 11,610 projects at a cost of $17.2 billion, a 337 percent increase over 2007.

Our favorite from 2008: $98,000 to develop a walking tour of rural Boydton, Va., population 474 and 0.82 square miles in size. In 1977, U.S. News & World Report called it “The Little Town That Refuses to Die.”


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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