The evidence is growing that the insidious influence of a special interest lobbying group, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is compromising our environment and public health.
The ACC’s fingerprints were all over President Trump’s nomination of industry shill Michael Dourson to head the agency’s chemical safety division. Dourson was forced to withdraw his name from consideration on December 13, after bipartisan opposition rendered his Senate confirmation unlikely, given his ongoing ties to chemical industries he had spent his career defending as a toxicologist. Trump’s nomination of Dourson is but the latest example of the ACC’s influence within the agency assigned to regulate the polluting and contaminating industries—on whose behalf this trade association lobbies.
The Fox is Dismantling the Hen House
On December 6, the EPA held a public meeting with Deputy Assistant Administrator Nancy Beck, Ph.D., a former executive at the American Chemistry Council, who opened the public meeting. Industry cronies such as Michael Walls, the ACC’s vice president of regulatory and technical affairs organized a ‘pilot program’ with only chemical industry representatives.
On the following day, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee summoned EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to address concerns surrounding his sweeping, counter-productive policy and departmental changes, acting at the bidding of the ACC and other corporate interests.
Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general who sued the EPA 13 times, has systematically abolished regulations and rolled back environmental protection rules and requirements. And he has slashed the agency’s budget and staff. In partnership with President Trump, he has ensured the subsequent restructuring includes the voices of chemical industry honchos with records of anti-environmental action.
Put People Over Profits
The purpose of the EPA, which can still be found in the Mission section of its website, is to protect human health and the environment—not the corporate bottom line.
When the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform bill was signed into law in 2016, it seemed bipartisan legislation in the name of health was possible. Under the updated act, all citizens were to be shielded from dangerous chemicals—chief among them asbestos, a deadly carcinogen that kills as many as 15,000 Americans a year. ADAO has watched sadly as Trump claimed asbestos was “100 percent safe.”
Pruitt testified on December 7 to being unfamiliar with the asbestos import issue. Yet since 2012, the USA has spent over $4 million dollars buying tons of asbestos from Brazil to be used by the chlor-alkali industry. Last week, Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court ruled that there is “no safe or controlled use” and banned the mining, use, and commerce of asbestos. Although heavily lobbied by Dow, Brazil’s Supreme Court also ruled not to grant the chlor-alkali industry an exemption to continue using asbestos diaphragms. This unprecedented move is a game-changer, as Brazil has been the world’s third largest asbestos producer as well as a major exporter of deadly asbestos.
ADAO shares the belief of Energy and Commerce Committee Chairmen Walden and Shimkus that, “It is past time for EPA to refocus on pursuing its important public health and environmental missions as Congress originally intended.”
During the hearing, Congressman Frank Pallone pressed Pruitt on the agency’s worrying and inadequate implementation of TSCA. The law requires the EPA to examine intended conditions for use of a chemical defined under which the chemical is manufactured, processed, distributed, used, and disposed of. In the scoping document for asbestos risk assessment, however, EPA announced they will only look at manufacturing, processing, and distribution—ignoring use and disposal. We all know that with asbestos, the main sources of risk are its use and disposal. Under the EPA’s new risk assessment guidelines—drawn by and for the chemical industry—the risk to workers and ordinary Americans will not be captured nor will the assessment be scientifically sound.
Pruitt agreed this is a valid concern and an important factor to consider. We’ll see if he backs his words up with any action. If the pattern of lack of transparency and accountability from the agency continues, it is unlikely the interests of people over profits will be considered.