National Energy Management Institute

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The National Energy Management Institute (NEMI) was effectively run by the Tobacco Institute, although it had its own management, Frank Powell who ran the scam for many years, purportedly with the Union of sheet metal and ventilation contractors. It claimed to be an organisation specialising in "energy management" of the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning) systems in large factories and offices, but in fact it was working primarily for the tobacco industry, and its reports reflected their requirements of higher air-exchange rates to reduce the problem of second-hand smoke without ever admitting this was a problem.

Energy Crises: The western world faced a series of energy crises in the 1970s and 1980s. The United States, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, were hit with substantial petroleum shortages and elevated prices both in the Oct-1973/Mar 1974 Arab embargo and oil crisis (Yom Kippur War) and the 1979-80 energy crisis (Iranian Revolution) interrupted Middle Eastern oil exports. There was also a series of recessions. As a consequence, it was in the financial interests of office managers to reduce the exchange rate of indoor and outdoor air as much as the occupants would tolerate in order to save heating and cooling costs. This exacerbated the problem of non-smokers living in an dilute atmosphere of perpetual tobacco smoke, and led to demands for workplace smoking restrictions. This, or course, split the workers and their unions between smoker supporters and non-smoker activists.

The union of sheet metal workers and the Association of Union Ventilation Contractors were then said to have jointly formed NEMI to fight workplace smoking restrictions and push for higher rates of building ventilation and regular duct cleaning and general maintenance. They said the main problem was "Sick Building Syndrome" rather than smoking, and remedial maintenace and upgrading gave them work. The emphasis shifted to IAQ testing.

In fact, the formation of NEMI was supervised and funded through the US Tobacco Institute's Labor Management Committee which was largely contracted out to James Savarese (lobbyist) and Michael Forscey (lawyer).

In a 1988 speech, Peter Sparber of the Tobacco Institute's Public Relations division said:

"NEMI is been virtually the industry's sole weapon in trying to overturn the Beverly Hills smoking plan. The Institute has provided major funding for NEMI (in training) and travel for promotion of NEMI as a resource." [1]

[Note: the tobacco industry expended enormous efforts to defeat the famous Beverly Hills restaurant smoking ban.]

The fiction of control

NEMI was created specifically for the Tobacco Institute's Labor Management Committee in the mid 1980s. They launched a nationwide program in support of proper building ventilation -- "the only legitimate way of cleaning up the air in most workplace."

[The NEMI was given the paid help of ACVA and Gray Robertson (ACVA was later known as HBI)

The 16 million tobacco industry documents at the San Francisco University archives have 7963 references to the industry's lobbying efforts through NEMI, and there will be others under the name of Frank Powell. Also see other related documents at Labor Management Committee and A. Philip Randolph Institute pages.

Documents and Timelines

1981 A Testimonial in November 1995 claims that:

Founded in 1981 in California, NEMI is a non-profit labor-management trust fund of the sheet metal industry and represents 134,000 workers and more than 5,000 contractors who design, install, operate and maintain heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems which provide comfort and indoor air quality in buildings. NEMI and NEMI participating contractors have been involved in hundreds of indoor air quality investigations, proactive studies and mitigations in workplaces across the United States.

NEMI staff have, since 1987, conducted research, developed a training syllabus, developed training and informational materials, and published a definitive study on the relationship between lAQ and workers productivity.

From mid 1980's through to November 1994, NEMI has trained more than 300 contractors (8 hour course); 47 lAQ technician instructors (80 hour course); and 300 lAQ technicians in basic skills related to indoor air quality investigations and problem mitigation.

NEMI staff includes four mechanical engineers, ,a certified energy manager with radiological training, and three ventilation system technologists. NEMI has conducted numerous seminars for labor groups including national or local meetings of many large national unions representing public or other service or professional workers and for health and safety officials throughout the country. [2]

NEMI was highly prized by the Tobacco Institute because it was one of the few organisations it employed which was 'above suspicion'. It was moderate, labor and union-oriented, so it was trusted by the office occupants -- where a normal for-profit company would not have been.

1987 Jan 11 Susan Stuntz outlines the Tobacco Institute's People, Organizations and Materials. She also list the outside consultants that the Tobacco Institute has available to fight the ETS battle.

1988 June The 'Public Smoking Issues' division of the TI, consisting of Jeffrey Ross, John Lyons, and Sharon Ransome report lists:

  • recruiting indoor air quality (ETS/ventilation) scientists.
  • Alan Kassman, a former Philip Morris scientist, has been briefed and will go through media training next month.
  • Jolanda Janczewski of ENV Services has been through media training and will be briefed by scientists and legal counsel next month.
  • They have identified six additional ETS scientist who are now reviewing the scientific literature.
  • testing the effectiveness of ACVA/HBI's advertising campaign and direct mail program. They are investigating the feasibility of broadcast ads.
  • Litigation Program

A more comprehensive time-line with staff allocations gives more details of these activities -- and little doubt of the role the Tobacco Institute played with ACVA, NEMI, Bestype, etc. Such as:

  • PROJECT: Promote ACVA via advertising and direct mail in conjunction with Gray Robertson media tours for remainder of 1988.
  • PROJECT: Continue promotion of NEMl's indoor air quality services through September, 1988. (IAQ Newsletter, NEHI Brochure & Promotional Video or Slide Show)
  • (Jeff Ross) NEMI newsletter/copy clearance.(10/13) NEMI newsletter/approval of layout (11/02) NEMI newsletter/camera ready art (11/04) [NEMI was scheduled to see and clear it only on 25 Sept. The whole operation (including a video/slide show) was controlled by the TI with the help of Ogilvy & Mather]
  • PROJECT: Promote Bestype corporate smoking assistance program. "Obtain Bestype approval of business relationship." (08/19)
  • (Sharon Ransome) Bestype seminars & ads - finalize materials. (10/05) Redirect workplace program to smokers/schedule media tours in selected markets.(10/17) Bestype general direct mail/commence promotion & distribution. (11/01) …etc.
  • PROJECT: John Fox Seminars on Workplace Smoking Legal Issues: "These dates are proposed. Logistical considerations may dictate minor adjustments in the calendar."Raleigh/Durham, Portland Oregon, Cleveland, Seattle
  • (John Lyons) John Fox seminars/report results on second seminar. (10/10) John Fox seminars/conduct third seminar (11/09) John Fox seminars/conduct fourth seminar (12/06) …etc.


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