Archive for the ‘EPA’ Category

Statistically Speaking – the EPA’s math doesn’t add up

Statistically Speaking

40% of the Community of Northport is sick with similar health issues. Yet, the EPA says, based on their research, the towns health issues cannot be linked to the Canadian smelter located 12 miles upriver from the town

 

by: Jamie Paparich

 

The EPA held a meeting to discuss their Human Health Risk Assessment of the 315 residents of Northport, Washington. There were 55 residents in the high school cafeteria that night, or 17.46% of the community, to hear why the EPA is certain that the communities’ chronic exposure to air pollution and slag emissions from Teck Resources, a Canadian smelter located 12 miles upriver, has nothing to do with their cluster of rare, similar health issues.

The 55 residents that attended the EPA meeting are part of a total of  383 past and present Northport residents who completed a  2011 health surveyAll  383 of these past and present residents, spanning 3 generations, have similar health issues.    That is  40% of 3 generations of Northport residents.

 

From a Statistical Perspective

Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease:

  • Annually approximately 2–14 people out of 100,000 are diagnosed with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s in the United States – or:  .006
  • 54 past and present Northport residents, spanning 3 generations, have been diagnosed with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis – or:   7%
  • Of the 315 current residents 19 people have been diagnosed –  or:   6%

 Multiple sclerosis (MS):

  • Annually approx. 10,400 people are diagnosed with MS in the United States – or:   .003%. 
  • 32 past and present Northport residents, spanning 3 generations, have been diagnosed with MS – or:   4%

Brain Tumors/Cancers:

  • Annually approx. 23,880 people are diagnosed with Brain Tumors in the United States – or:   .007% 
  • 19 past and present Northport residents, spanning 3 generations, have been diagnosed with/or died from a brain tumor – or:   49.7%

Teck’s Legacy:

  • From 1921–2005 Teck released 63,578 tons of heavy metal toxins (arsenic, cadmium, mercury, lead) through their air emissions. 
  • From 1906–1995 Teck released 58,611,000 tons of slag into the Columbia river, the equivalent of a dump truck emptying 19 tons of slag every hour, every day, for 60 years.
  • Between 1994–1997 Teck’s discharges of arsenic, cadmium and lead equal MORE than the discharges of ALL the lead and zinc smelters COMBINED through-out the United States.
  • For Teck Smelter’s Timeline of Pollution read;  A Century of Evidence

 

Yet the EPA stood in front of those 55 people in the school cafeteria that night and tried to make them believe, statistically and scientifically, that their chronic exposure to heavy metal toxins from Teck Resources, and that of their family and friends, had nothing to do with 40% of their community being sick. Or at least, that is what their Human Health Risk Assessment will conclude….based on their statistic.

 

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“The Beginning of the End of the World”

The article below, “The Beginning of the End of the World”, was adapted from “Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America”.  It is an amazing, heartbreaking, and terrifying article.  It is a bit long, but I hope you will take the time to read it.  The story of Buzz and his family is a very familiar story to some of us, as is the conclusion of their story.  The mining, smelting and fracking industries are necessary.  I am from a family who has been in mining for three generations.  The jobs these industries provide are necessary and priceless to small communities, but so are our lives and the lives of those we love… and our land, which to many of us represent where we came from and who we are.  There is a safe and responsible way to run these companies.  However, many are not willing to spend the extra time and, ultimately, money to do it the safe way.  They don’t have to because the regulatory agencies are worse than the companies not meeting their regulations.  I have witnessed first-hand how the EPA will twist and construe the scientific truth of a study to hide the danger a community is in from the pollution of a powerful company, from a Goliath.  The truth is these companies are bigger than Goliath….as Grace, Buzz’s mom in the article below, points out; they are bigger than God.  They are knowingly creating “the beginning of the end of the world”… and our Government Agencies, created to protect us, are helping them.

Click here to read “The Beginning of the End of the World” by Eliza Griswold.

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EPA won’t help Northport, leaving towns fate in the hands of the State of WA

(By Colin Haffner/Chewelah Independent)

Agency feels risk from outdoor air in Northport is low…

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has denied a request to restart air quality testing downwind of one of the world’s largest lead and zinc smelters and refineries in Canada. This leaves the State of Washington in search of financing to conduct the testing on its own, according to The Spokesman Review.

Teck Resources Ltd., located in Trail, British Columbia, is situated just 20 miles north of Northport, WA, and per the Spokesman’s May 5 article, more than 100 local residents filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency to install air monitors between the town and the Canadian border.

The petition was sent last December. Signers of the petition, including residents, the Northport Project and citizens for a Clean Columbia (CCC) are asking for three long -term air monitors in and around Northport in order to help address concerns over health related issues experienced by residents.

Jamie Paparich is one of the key organizers behind the Northport Project. In an April article run by the Chewelah Independent, Paparich told the publication, “Residents believe that the air is the culprit behind the many health clusters in our small community. Studies have been conducted showing chronic exposure to elevated ambient arsenic and cadmium causes damage to the immune system and gastrointestinal tract. All of our health issues are auto immune related, and the biggest health cluster of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease is linked directly to the gastrointestinal tract. A study Harvard conducted of our community showed cases of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s to be diagnosed 11.5 to 18 times higher in Northport than anywhere else in the County. Residents continue to be diagnosed. I know of two residents who have been already diagnosed this year.”

Concern of the effects from the Teck smelter on human health has been ongoing for many years. Monitoring by the state in the 1990s showed arsenic and cadmium levels were well beyond acceptable safety standards.

In 2016, the Colville Confederated Tribes won an $8.25 million lawsuit against Teck after the company admitted dumping nearly 10 million tons of slag into the Columbia River between 1930 and 1995.

Recent state models show that the smelter could be sending the highest known airborne levels of arsenic and lead over the border into Washington, Oregon and Idaho, The Spokesman stated.

Monitoring is estimated to cost the State Department of Ecology about $300,000. Brook Beeler, an ecology spokeswoman, said they will look into raising the funds through grants or other agency funding, according to the Spokesman.

The state models were based off six years of data from 2009 to 2014 using the British Columbia government’s projections of heavy metal levels crossing the border.

2009 was the last time air quality was monitored on the Washington side of the border.

Since the mid-1990s, Teck has spent over $1.5 billion on improvements to their smelter, the Spokesman stated, reducing emissions by more than 99 percent, according to Chris Stannell, a spokesman for Teck. Stannell contends the smelter already follows many pollution controls required by the Canadian government, and there are air quality stations situated just 7km (4.35 miles) from the Washington-Canadian border.

Stannell noted to the Independent in April, “air quality is monitored 24 hours a day for metals (including lead) and sulphur dioxide at a variety of locations throughout the Trail area and the operation is in full compliance with all provincial and federal regulations relating to air emissions.”

In the Spokesman article, it was stated that data showed that the average levels of lead and arsenic were many times higher than the next highest reading in the Northwest which was taken in Seattle’s industrial area. The heavy metals in those emissions could pose an increase in serious long-term health risks such as cancer, though short-term effects pose little risk.

Despite all the data, EPA officials do not believe additional monitoring is needed. “From our evaluation of data collected in 1999 to 2009, we believe that the risk to you from the outdoor air in Northport is low,” Cami Grandinetti, a manager in the EPA’s remedial cleanup program, wrote in an April letter and went on to state with additional improvements at the smelter, “we expect current day operations to be even lower,” the Spokesman said.

Ecology offers hope to Northport, as EPA continues to deny cluster of health issues

Listen to the Spokane Public Radio news story live by clicking here.

EPA Won’t Test Air in Northport, WA—Despite Potential Danger to Residents

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My Questions to the EPA

The EPA recently explained to the community of Northport, WA, based on the EPA’s analysis of existing data they have decided not to conduct additional air monitoring in our area.

After analyzing the existing data, the EPA concluded;

  • For arsenic, the air concentration is 0.0042 ug/m3.  Although this level is higher than safety standards they felt that it would only correspond to a cancer risk of 2 in 100,000.  So, the community should be “safe”.
  • For cadmium, the air concentration is .00136 ug/m3. Although this level is also higher than safety standards they felt that it would only correspond to a cancer risk of 2 in 1 million people. So, once again, we are “safe”.

The existing data the EPA analyzed is the following:

  • All 4 Air Monitoring Studies conducted by Ecology in Northport between 1992 – 1998.
    • All four concluded that our levels of arsenic (.02ug/m3) were 100 times the safety standard and our levels of cadmium (.04) were 18 times higher than safety standards.
  • Air Data measured at a monitoring station Teck Smelter operated near Northport from 1999 – 2009.

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In 2017 The Department of Ecology conducted a preliminary review and evaluation of past air quality monitoring data from our area and consideration of potential present-day health risks. (So basically, they analyzed the same data the EPA claims to have reviewed). When Ecology realized a very important gap of data to accurately evaluate our situation they conducted an air modeling algorithm to get a more specific idea of the actual concentrations of the toxins in our air.

After analyzing the existing date Ecology concluded;

  • Some quality assurance and uncertainty issues arose in Teck’s air monitoring and reporting. Some anomalies were noted when comparing variations in PM emissions that do not correspond to variations in As, Cd, Pb, and Zn emissions. Meaning the accuracy of the emissions being reported and recorded should be called into question.
  • Another issue was the quantitation limit for sampling Arsenic was measured in a bucket of 0.01 ug/m3 to 0.39 ug/m3. Meaning any levels that fell into this category were reported as a .01 ug/m3 in concentration.  When in reality over 40% of those samples were actually closer to 0.39 ug/m3 . That means 40% of the samples had concentrations recorded as .01 when in reality those samples could have been as high as 0.39.  That would mean the actual concentration of arsenic in our air (on average) would be 0.152 ug/m3.
    • Per the EPA guidelines; if the toxin exceeds the Acceptable Source Impact Level (ASIL) it is evaluated as a risk, and additional analysis is needed, especially if the toxin falls within the Risk-Based Concentration (RBC) levels.  The ASIL for arsenic emissions is .0023ug/m3, and the RBC is .0023 ug/m3.
    • The EPA is claiming the concentration of arsenic in Northport is .0042 ug/m3. Under the EPA’s ASIL and RBC levels they would be required to gather “additional analysis” (AIR MONITORING) on the situation.  Worse yet, based on Ecology’s assessment of the data the EPA reviewed the concentration of arsenic in Northport is much more likely to be close to 0.152 ug/m3.  This is a very dangerous level to be chronically exposed to.  I think the results of our health studies (see below) are proof enough of that.
  • Due to the lack of monitors in the areas upriver from Northport to the border, and therefore the lack of data, Ecology applied a smoothing algorithm to mean concentration estimates as functions of time and downriver distance to estimate average As, Cd, and Pb concentrations.
  • The results of this algorithm concluded that between 2009 – 2014 the average level of arsenic in our air was .02 ug/m3. This is similar to the results of the other air monitoring studies done in our area in the past, and not by Teck. .02 ug/m3 is 100 times the recommended safety level.

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Results from the 2012 Northport Community Health Survey

  • 18 people, in a population of 315, had been diagnosed with cancer.  (This seems to blow EPA’s theory of the toxins we are exposed to will only correspond to a cancer risk of 2 in 100,000.)
  • 17 residents had been diagnosed with either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s. 17 residents out of a community of 315.  Nationwide approximately 7 people out of 100,000 are diagnosed with UC or Crohn’s annually.
  • 23 residents had been diagnosed with either a brain aneurism or tumors.
  • 13 residents had been diagnosed with either Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis.

Since the 2012 Community Health Survey the health issues have not stopped

  • 8 more residents were diagnosed with cancer
  • 4 more residents have been diagnosed with UC or Crohn’s
  • 3 more residents have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and 1 more resident has been diagnosed with Multiple Scoliosis
In a community with a population of approximately 315 people.

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EPA also informed us after their analysis of existing data that the air data is sufficient to conduct the human health risk assessment for our area.  They stated, The EPA believes that our evaluation of the potential risk to people from outdoor air, using existing air data, is technically sound.”

My Questions to the EPA:

  • Even if our air concentration for arsenic is 0.0042 ug/m3, as Teck stated, that still exceeds the ASIL and should be evaluated as a risk, and additional analysis (AIR MONITORING) is needed, especially if the toxin falls within the Risk-Based Concentration (RBC) levels.
  • Based on Ecology’s findings, what if our air concentration for arsenic is .02ug/m3, or even 0.152 ug/m3, if Ecology’s concern of quantitation limitation on Teck’s sampling is correct?  Our arsenic and cadmium concentrations are already over the safety standards. Scientific data shows that it is very likely those concentrations are significantly higher than the EPA believes.
  • Why did you not evaluate the findings and concerns Ecology advised you of?
  • How did the EPA and The Department of Ecology reach such different conclusions based on the same information?
  • Why are so many residents in our community continuing to get sick if what the EPA is saying is true?
  • How do you plan on conducting a Human Health Risk Assessment based on this lacking, and possibly incorrect data?

The EPA had a choice.  You could have listened to the over 100 Northport residents who signed a petition asking for your help, you could have taken the recommendations of The Department of Ecology and The Tri-County Health Department to conduct a long term, multiple location air monitoring program in our area.  Instead you used limited, inaccurate, outdated data from Teck’s air monitor to conclude no additional air monitoring is needed. This means the HHRA the EPA conducts will be dangerously  inaccurate before it is even began. Do us a favor and don’t waste your time.  The HHRA will ensure we are safe, just as you are telling us we are safe now. I hope you have reason to come visit us five or ten years from now.  You can look around this very room, full of some of the same people that are here today, and explain to them why you left us in danger.  Why you not only told us we were safe, but refused us any sort of assistance to ensure we are safe….again.  The EPA stood where you are now in 1992, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2015, 2017 and now 2018.  Would you like to know how many people have either gotten sick or died from similar health issues in those 26 years?

Interesting Article from a former EPA Employee

What’s Wrong with the EPA?

by William Sanjour, US Environmental Protection Agency

 

For the past 20 years I have worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. There I have been given the choice of being a “good soldier” and obeying orders or a “good citizen” and obeying the law. I have not, I’m afraid, been a very good soldier.

When I came to the then-new agency, I hoped to do something useful and constructive. In 1974 I was m7297377_ml-1038x576ade a branch chief in the Hazardous Waste Management Division. The studies I supervised there played an important part in the passage of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976, the first federal law regulating toxic waste. I was also in charge of drafting regulations for the treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes.

But in 1978 the Carter administration, preoccupied with inflation, took steps to protect industry by removing the teeth from those regulations. At first I fought from the inside to make RCRA work in the true spirit of the legislation. The result was that in 1979 I was transferred to another position, with no duties and no staff. I became an outspoken EPA critic, a whistleblower, and have been one ever since.

Since then, I have spent much of my spare time meeting with grassroots environmental groups. Their members frequently ask me why the Environmental Protection Agency does not seem particularly interested in protecting the environment. The question usually comes from people who are dealing directly with the EPA for the first time, who had always thought of the agency as the guys in white hats who put the bad polluters in jail. It comes from ordinary citizens with ordinary political views and lifestyles who suddenly find themselves living close to where somebody is building a hazardous waste facility, incinerator, or nuclear waste dump. These people start out with a strong faith in their country and its institutions. “If there were anything wrong with it,” they say, “the government wouldn’t let them do it.”

To their surprise, these folks find that the EPA officials whom they thought would be their allies are at best indifferent and often antagonistic. They find that the EPA views them, and not the polluters, as the enemy. Citizens who thought that the resources of the government would be at their disposal find instead that they have to hire their own experts to gather data on the health and environmental impacts of proposed facilities, while the government sits on the same information collected at public expense. If these increasingly jaded folks want to go to court, they have to pass the hat and run bake sales to hire attorneys to go up against government lawyers whose salaries are paid by the public.

To understand why the Environmental Protection Agency is the way it is, you have to start at the top, and since the EPA is part of the executive branch, that means the White House. The President (any President, Republican or Democrat) and his immediate staff have an agenda of about a half dozen issues with which they are most concerned. These are usually national security, foreign affairs, the economy, the budget, and maybe one or two others; call them Class A priorities. All othersóhousing, education, transportation, the environmentóare Class B.

The President expects performance in Class A. He will expect the military to be able to deploy forces anywhere in the world when an emergency arises, and if it isn’t, he will bang heads until it is. If Congress doesn’t support his budget, he will bring the budget director into his office and slam his fist on the table. But can you picture the President bringing the Secretary of Transportation into his office and yelling because of poor bus service in Sheboygan? Or calling the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency into the Oval Office to chew him out for pollution in the Cuyahoga River? I can’t. That is the difference. The President expects performance in Class A; in Class B he expects peace and quiet.


Hundreds of people in the EPA have spent tens of millions of dollars and have advanced their careers by busily drawing up work plans, attending meetings, making proposals, writing reports, giving briefings, conducting studies, and accomplishing nothing.


But regulatory agencies, by their very nature, can do little which doesn’t adversely affect business, especially big and influential business, and that disturbs the President’s repose. The EPA, for instance, cannot write regulations governing the petroleum industry without the oil companies going to the White House screaming “energy crisis.” If it tries to control dioxin emissions, The New York Times (whose paper mill in Canada has been sued for dumping dioxin into the Kapuskasing, Mattagami, and Moose Rivers) writes nasty editorials. If it tries to enforce the Clean Air Act, polluters run to Vice-President Dan Quayle’s Council on Competitiveness for “regulatory relief.”

EPA employees soon learn that drafting and implementing rules for environmental protection means making enemies of powerful and influential people. Although it isn’t transmitted through written or even oral instructions, employees learn to be “team players,” and that ethic permeates the entire agency. People who like to get things done, who need to see concrete results for their efforts, don’t last long. They don’t necessarily get fired, but they don’t advance either; their responsibilities are transferred to others, and they often leave the agency in disgust. The people who get ahead are those clever ones with a talent for procrastination, obfuscation, and coming up with superficially plausible reasons for accomplishing nothing.

For example, the EPA used to grant billions of dollars for the construction of local sewage treatment plants. These plants generated a sludge that the EPA encouraged for use as a fertilizer. In 1974, I pointed out to my managers that there was considerable evidence from Department of Agriculture studies that some municipal sewer sludge contained poisons that could be transmitted to people when it was used as fertilizer. I recommended regulations to control the problem. This notion was very unpopular with the burgeoning new sewage plant construction industry and its promoters within the EPA. The responsibility for this issue was taken out of my hands and transferred to a committee, which studied the issue for a year and did nothing but recommend further study. For this they all received medals and cash bonuses as “outstanding performers” at the EPA.

In the past 18 years this story has been repeated many times. Hundreds of people in the EPA have spent tens of millions of dollars and have advanced their careers by busily drawing up work plans, attending meetings, making proposals, writing reports, giving briefings, conducting studies, and accomplishing nothing. It is now 1992, and the issue of how to regulate sewage sludge has still not been resolved.

At this point you may protest that the EPA has written many regulations, that it has in fact reduced pollution in many areas, cleaned up Superfund sites, and collected millions of dollars in fines from polluters, some of whom have even been sent to jail. Yet in most cases, the agency had to be coerced into meaningful action. The EPA, more often than not, actually opposes the passage of tough environmental laws, and organizations like the Sierra Club have to sue in federal court just to make it do what it is funded for and is legally required to do. When I was writing government procurement regulations for recycled materials, I was told that a proposed regulation would not even be considered for the Administrator’s signature unless it was a court-ordered deadline. So I had to encourage several organizations to sue the EPA in order to get the regulations out.


The people who get ahead are those clever ones with a talent for procrastination, obfuscation, and coming up with superficially plausible reasons for accomplishing nothing.


On an earlier occasion I was in charge of writing regulations for the management of hazardous waste landfills, which RCRA required to be issued in 1977. When Gary Dietrich, my boss, issued orders delaying the process, I warned him that we would miss the legal deadline. He laughed. “Nobody ever got thrown into jail for missing a deadline,” he said.

He was right. I was taken off the job. Here again I contacted an environmental organization which sued the EPA. The court imposed another deadline. The EPA missed that one, and the judge set another. They missed that one too and many, many more, but nobody was sent to jail for defying the court orders or not implementing the law. On the contrary, many were highly rewarded. Meanwhile, the public was exposed to poisons leaking out of countless unregulated hazardous waste dumps. Dietrich later left the agency to be a consultant for Waste Management, Inc.

This leads us to what I call Dietrich’s Law: “No one in the EPA is ever sent to jail, or loses their job, or suffers any career setback for failing to do what the law requires.” And the corollary: “Many people ruin their careers in the EPA by trying to do what the law demands.”

The landfill regulations were finally issued in 1982, five years after they were due. They were riddled with loopholes, like the one giving politically appointed regional administrators the final say in setting safety levels of toxic materials. Even so, the press hailed the EPA’s heroic achievement. The bloom quickly faded, however; when, after hearing testimony from myself and many others, Congress realized that the regulations were too weak, and passed a new law in 1984 requiring tougher standards. This time, it added a “hammer” provision: If the EPA missed the deadline, then all the wastes from a long list of chemicals would be banned from landfills. For the first time I can recall for regulations of this magnitude, the EPA met its deadlines. Why? Because in this case, industry would be hurt by not issuing the rules. The EPA is simply more concerned with protecting the interests of the people it is supposed to regulate than in protecting the public interest.

Does this mean that the EPA has cynically abandoned the environment for the sake of the powerful hazardous waste lobby? Actually, most people in the agency sincerely equate the waste management industry with the protection of the environment, and see the industry’s opponents as anti-environmental NIMBYs. But commercial hazardous waste management is a business, and successful businesses maximize income and minimize costs. Income is produced by taking in wastes through the gate; waste is money, and the more the better. Expense is incurred by treating the waste so as to protect human health and the environment. Obviously, these goals are diametrically opposed to what should be those of the EPA: to reduce the production of hazardous wastes and to maximize protection of human health and the environment.

The EPA’s confusion on this matter is well illustrated in the case of the WTI hazardous waste incinerator (the world’s largest), which is currently operating in East Liverpool, Ohio, in an already heavily polluted area surrounded by residences and schools and subject to frequent thermal inversions. WTI is a consortium of investors put together by Jackson Stephens, an Arkansas billionaire who is a golfing partner of Vice President Dan Quayle and who has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to George Bush’s presidential campaigns.

The local citizens found many irregularities and outright violations of the law in the permit originally issued by EPA. Furthermore, the state law had significantly changed since the permit was issued in ways which might no longer allow the incinerator to be built where it was. Thus, when the incinerator operator asked for a permit modification to install a spray dryer (which many technical experts felt was unsafe), the above facts would normally require the permit to be reissued rather than merely modified. But given the public mood and the changes in the law since the original permit was issued, this was likely to result in long delays and possible revocation of the permit.

The incinerator operator told the Ohio EPA that he “can’t risk any appeals.” The Ohio EPA responded that “if there is a way to authorize this change without a formal permit change, we should try to do so.” William Muno, director of the EPA’s Waste Management Division in Chicago, knew where his duty lay; at a meeting with congressional staffers on November 12, 1991, he said that he would not order a permit change because the EPA “had to treat our constituents (i.e., WTI) in a fair and equitable manner.”


…industry can offer EPA employees things the environmentalists cannot, especially high-paying jobs. It also offers generous contributions, over or under the table…


Influence peddling does not stop with the EPA. The top executives and lobbyists of the waste management companies are in constant touch with the President, the White House staff, members of Congress, governors, state legislators, state environmental protection agencies, county commissioners, the press, and national environmental organizations. (The Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation and the Conservation Foundation all have top executives of the waste management industry on their boards.) The industry even has its own “grass-roots” organizations , like the “Concerned Taxpayers” of Carswell County, North Carolina, who took out newspaper ads supporting a controversial landfill. No one was ever able to discover who (other than local politicians) those taxpayers wereóbut the ads were paid for by Browning-Ferris Industries, the company trying to build the landfill.

Waste management is the growth industry of the late 20th century. The industry has grown very rich through its ability to control the regulators who are supposed to control itóand it shares this wealth with its benefactors. Government bureaucrats soon learn that while crossing the industry can get them into a lot of trouble, cooperating with it has many rewards, high among which is the hope of highly lucrative future employment. Indeed, rather than the environmental enthusiasts who flocked to the EPA in its early years, the agency is now full of careerists who view their job as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Scores of federal and state employees have gone on to careers in the hazardous waste industry including three out of the five EPA administrators. (Of the two who didn’t, one left in disgrace, and one was a millionaire already.)

No one is more closely associated with the revolving door at the EPA than William Ruckelshaus, the agency’s first Administrator when it was created in 1970. When he left the EPA in 1973, Ruckelshaus became senior vice-president and director of Weyerhaeuser, the huge timber and paper company and target of many environmental groups. He was named EPA Administrator a second time. from 1983 to 1985. Between and after his two terms he was a director of several companies concerned with regulations of the EPA, including Monsanto, the Cummins Engine Co. (a diesel engine manufacturer), Pacific Gas Transmission Co., and the American Paper Institute.

After his second stint at the EPA, he formed a consulting firm called William D. Ruckelshaus Associates, which was then hired by the Coalition on Superfund, an organization seeking to weaken the Superfund law by absolving polluters of strict legal liability for their actions. The coalition included such Superfund polluters and their insurers as Monsanto, Occidental Petroleum, Alcoa, Dow Chemical, AT&T, Du Pont, Union Carbide, Aetna Insurance, and Travelers Insurance. Assisting Ruckelshaus in this effort were Lee Thomas, Ruckelshaus’ hand-picked successor as Administrator of the EPA, and William Reilly, then head of the Conservation Foundation. (Ruckelshaus and Thomas helped fund Reilly’s foundation to produce studies in support of the coalition’s position.)

Ruckelshaus went on to become CEO of Browning-Ferris Industries, the number-two waste management company in America, for a guaranteed minimum annual salary of $1million. Browning-Ferris had a dreadful environmental record and had been hit with millions of dollars in fines. Ruckelshaus was supposed to clean up the company’s reputation, but the appointment did more to tarnish his.

When George Bush ran for President in 1988, Ruckelshaus was his environmental advisor, and was thus able to install his protege, William Reilly, as EPA administrator and former Ruckelshaus Associates Vice-President Henry Habicht as Deputy Administrator. Thus, the two top executives of the EPA were placed by the head of a company which is a major polluter, heavily regulated by the EPA, a principal responsible party for many Superfund sites, and a contractor for EPA-funded Superfund cleanups.

People outside the agency often assume that the national environmental groups have a stronger influence within the EPA than does industry. But industry can offer EPA employees things the environmentalists cannot, especially high-paying jobs. It also offers generous contributions, over or under the table, to almost anybody who will take its money.

Waste Management, Inc. has its own political action committee, one of the largest in the country. Between 1987 and 1988 it contributed $430,000 to congressional candidates, in addition to money funneled through trade associations, chambers of commerce, and the Democratic and Republican parties. There are many documented cases of WMI’s largess to politicians, including flying a politician in a corporate jet to visit a WMI facility and giving him a cash gift of $10,000; paying $4,000 for a Chicago politician’s vacation in Acapulco; giving a congressional staffer a $2,000 “honorarium” to visit a WMI facility; and paying an outright $3,000 bribe to a local commissioner in Florida.

Environmental groups tend to deal with the EPA as an institution, dealing with it through Congressional committees, the courts, and top EPA executives. Industry does the same, of course, but it also interacts with individual EPA employees at every level, working directly with the field inspectors and permit writers responsible for making particular decisions. When I was in charge of writing regulations, I was the object of this courtship, showered with flattery, meals, trips, and hints of future employment. In addition to real and hinted-at job opportunities, people who cooperate with industry also find that the lobbyists will lobby for their advancement with upper management. Those who don’t cooperate find the lobbyists lobbying for their heads.

Regardless of their magnificent trappings, institutions are made up of people; behind the great and powerful Oz is a fragile little man pulling the levers. Because it is based on weak and fallible individuals, the liberal dream of powerful institutions protecting and perfecting our lives can easily become a nightmare of corruption and abuse.

The founding fathers knew this. They didn’t trust institutions. They didn’t think a nation could remain free unless its citizens stayed on top of things themselves; that’s why they set up such an elaborate balance of competing interests, of checks and balances. I believe the right approach is to reduce the power of the institutions, and increase the power of the people who have the most at stake.

 

This article is excerpted from Sierra magazine, September/October, 1992.

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