U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed in 1970 under President Richard M. Nixon. The EPA is the agency responsible for national issues of environmental health, a responsibility shared with the Department of the Interior.

Overview

Lisa Jackson is the EPA administrator under the Obama administration. Under Christine Todd Whitman of George W. Bush's administration, the agency became controversial and politicized, due in part to the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol. Also, the cover up of asbestos and e-waste dangers in Manhattan after September 11, 2001. This led to widespread criticism of the handling of public health concerns arising from terrorism, as well as the role of the government in general. See also EPA's Revolving Door.

Budget

On April 8, 2011, the Senate made a budget deal that cut $1.6 billion, or 16 percent, of the EPA's budget. Lawmakers from Western states also included a rider allowing states to de-list wolves from the endangered species list, the first time an animal was de-listed for political rather than scientific reasons.[1]

Greenhouse gas issues (subsection)

For greenhouse gas regulations, see also EPA greenhouse gas issues.

Coal issues (subsection)

For coal waste & other coal regulations, see also EPA coal issues.

Environmental toxins & pollution

Industry funded chemical study

In 2004, the Washington Post reported that the EPA had accepted two million dollars from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), to "fund a study exploring the impact of pesticides and household chemicals on young children." Not too surprisingly, the inappropriateness of accepting funding from chemical interests and obvious conflict of interests issues, prompted an "outcry from environmentalists". The "Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study" (CHEERS), does not mark the first time the EPA has accepted chemical industry funding to conduct "research". The Clinton administration signed similar agreements. However, it does represent the largest amount for a chemical trade group. The ACC represents about 135 manufacturers and spends $20 million a year on research.[2]

EPA proposal for less reporting of chemical toxins

Under a 2005 EPA proposal, industrial companies would be freed from reporting most chemical releases of less than 5,000 pounds, up from 500 pounds under current law. Factories, power plants, refineries and other sources of pollution would also report their releases every other year, as opposed to the previous yearly reporting requirements.[3]

Industry friendly laws

According to a draft plan, finalized in 2006, Bush administration political appointees would evaluate industry-funded human tests on a case-by-case basis:

"In setting limits on chemicals in food and water, the Environmental Protection Agency may rely on industry tests that expose people to poisons and raise ethical questions." [4]

Industry influence

A 2011 study in "Administrative Law Review" found that industries had significant influence over citizen groups in the EPA's Air Toxic Emission Standards at three distinct stages of the regulation process:

"At the pre-proposal stage, industry had an average of 84 informal communications with the EPA per rule; public interest groups had an average of 0.7 communications per rule. During the comment process, industry provided approximately 81% of the total comments; public interest groups provided 4%. Changes made to the final rule after notice and comment favored industry by a factor of 4 to 1 as compared to the changes benefitting the public interest. Post-final rule activity was considerable as well. Petitions and litigation occurred for 22% of the rules, with industry filings accounting for 2 times those filed by public interest groups. After promulgation of the rules, moreover, roughly 70% of the rules were revised and amended, with an average rate of over 4 revisions per rule for those that were revised at least once." [5]

EPA & agribusiness

The CAFO papers

In 2004, the government released hundreds of pages of documentation exposing Bush administration granting the meat & dairy industry control over a proposal to let Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO)s or factory farms, off the hook for pollution violations. The documents revealed the extent of industry influence, with monthly closed door meetings between the administration and industry lobbyists. In May of 2002, lobbyists proposed a deal to let industry off the hook for violations of the basic environmental protections such as the Clean Air Act and toxics laws. The EPA's proposed agreement closely mirror's the industry's wish list. Other documents revealed the extent of access granted to industry polluters. Lobbyist even wrote a power-point presentation for the EPA, literally putting words in their mouths. [6]

Smithfield Foods & Clean Water Act

In August of 1997, Smithfield Foods was fined 12.6 million dollars for violating the U.S. Clean Water Act in Smithfield, Virginia by a U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Virginia. It is the largest fine ever imposed under the Clean Water Act. Smithfield was dumping hog waste into the Pagan River, a tributary flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. A May 1997 ruling found the company's failure to install adequate pollution control equipment and properly treat waste water resulted in more than 5,000 violations of permit limits. The violations occurred for over five years and degraded the Pagan River, the James River and the Chesapeake Bay. Another ruling found the company had falsified documents and destroyed water quality records. Because the company delayed installing essential pollution control equipment and continued dumping waste into the river for five years, the EPA and the Department of Justice, forced them to build a sewage treatment plant. [7] Smithfield had appealed a series of lower district court rulings, arguing that the United States was barred from suing the company due to an "agreement" with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality that allowed them to "exceed permit limits". In September of 1999, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. The panel of three judges unanimously agreed that Virginia’s agreement not to enforce the phosphorous was not part of the company's EPA approved permit. [8] See also Smithfield Foods.

911 Pollution cover up

Federal and state officials were accused of " grossly underestimating" the numbers of people at risk for llethal asbestos-related diseases, in lower Manhattan, after the collapse of the World Trade Center. Evaluations by teams of leading asbestos researchers showed an increased risk to those who live, work or study in areas which were not "properly decontaminated", to be as high as one additional cancer death for every 10 people exposed. The figures were revealed as leading government officials continued to insist there were "no long-term health risks" to those living and working near ground zero and exposed to dust from hundreds of thousands of tons of asbestos containing products used in the floors, walls, ceilings and the twin towers' steel frame.[9]

EPA animal testing requirements

The EPA requires massive amounts of animal testing for the marketing of industrial chemicals, vaccines and pharmaceuticals. [10] Force feeding animals increasing doses of chemicals (until they die) was invented around World War I and is still the most common animal test used today. The EPA requires pesticides be tested on dogs, who are shoved into "inhalation chambers" while deadly poisons that are pumped in. [11]

Thousands of rats, mice, rabbits, dogs, and primates are killed in "pre-clinical" tests for new drugs (including all ingredients and even minor differences in formulas). Following an extensive battery of animal testing, drugs generally undergo three phases of clinical trials. The fact that months or years of human studies are also required suggests health authorities do not trust the results. [12] In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that 92 out of every 100 drugs that successfully pass animal trials, subsequently fail human trials. [13], [14]

"Acceptable" toxicity levels

The EPA requires more chemical toxicity animal testing than any other federal agency. Rather than working to reduce levels of toxic chemicals and emissions, the EPA has established "acceptable" exposure levels based on animal testing. In spite of hundreds of thousands of animals killed and calls to limit exposures to humans and the environment, the EPA has not banned a toxic chemical in 10 years, using it's authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. [15] In fact, the chemical industry approves a near exclusive reliance on animal testing, since results are non-conclusive and easily manipulated. [16]

"Pesticides" may include synthetic chemicals, genetically engineered toxins and even natural substances (such as garlic) as well as insects, bacteria and viruses. The EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs' (OPP) authority comes from the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). [17] The OPP requires an extensive battery of toxicity tests on animals for every pesticide manufactured or sold in the U.S. Approximately 12,000 animals (rats, mice, rabbits, birds, fish and dogs) are killed to satisfy the "data requirements" for a single active ingredient. [18], [19] See also animal testing, section 3 on product testing.

EPA animal testing

Facility information, progress reports & USDA-APHIS reports

For links to copies of a facility's U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Animal Plant Health Inspection (APHIS) reports, other information and links, see also Stop Animal Experimentation NOW!: Facility Reports and Information. This site contains listings for all 50 states, links to biomedical research facilities in that state and PDF copies of government documents where facilities must report their animal usage. (Search: EPA, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina; EPA National Exposure Research Lab, Cincinatti, Ohio)

USDA AWA reports

As of May 26, 2009, the USDA began posting all inspection reports for animal breeders, dealers, exhibitors, handlers, research facilities and animal carriers by state. See also USDA Animal Welfare Inspection Reports.

Tobacco issues

Secondhand smoke

In December of 1992, the EPA issued a risk assessment entitled The Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking that concluded that secondhand smoke is a carcinogen which kills about 3,000 nonsmokers each year and is responsible for up 300,000 cases of bronchitis and pneumonia in children annually. The study stated that secondhand tobacco smoke is associated with increased risk of lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. EPA estimated that 150,000 to 300,000 respiratory infections annually in infants and young children up to 18 months are attributable to secondhand smoke. EPA also concluded that secondhand smoke was associated middle ear effusions, upper respiratory tract irritation, and small reductions in lung function, and that it increased severity of asthma symptoms in children. EPA estimated that up to 1 million asthmatic children have their condition worsened by exposure to secondhand smoke and that tobacco smoke exposure may also be a risk factor for the development of new cases of asthma.[20]

Tobacco industry's anti-EPA ad campaign

The risk assessment immediately drew the ire of tobacco companies. The U.S. tobacco industry fought EPA's risk assessment in part by trying to discredit the report. An example of their efforts is one in a series of ads proposed by the ad firm Young & Rubicam for the tobacco industry to help stop people from believing EPA's risk assessment. The ad says the EPA's Risk Assessment on secondhand smoke is as believable as someone saying that Elvis Presley didn't die, but was abducted by space aliens. The ad text reads:

"You've no doubt heard the rumors or read the reports that, somewhere, Elvis Presley is alive and well. But, of course, while these reports are good for a chuckle, you're not going to believe them. Unless you see Elvis with your very own eyes. In person. Or, at the very least, on the Eleven O'clock News. In other words, unless you have information you can rely on. If you apply the same test to the recent EPA report about incidental tobacco smoke, you have to come away with the same conclusion. Because, incredible as it may seem, when the EPA declared that incidental smoke is harmful to nonsmokers, they did so based on research so flawed that one scientist calls it "rotten science." Others call it data manipulation. What they did was gather disparate studies on the subject of incidental smoke. When they found that most of those studies did not support their position, they simply discarded them. (This last section was lined out by hand.)
Then they abandoned regular scientific procedures and blew out of proportion the conclusions of the remaining few studies. (Note: the words "remaining few" are lined out by hand.) And then they said the sky is falling. Unfortunately, there's nothing funny about this. Since over one-quarter of us smoke, and many other may occasionally be exposed to incidental smoke, the American people must have a right to demand that the EPA back up their assertions with research that adheres to accepted scientific methods. In other words, reliable information, not data manipulation. Until then, you can file the EPA report right next to the one that says, "the King was abducted by space aliens and is now rockin' and shakin' for folks in another galaxy." [21]

The phrase "incidental smoke" in the above ad text resulted in part from a much larger presentation which Young & Rubicam (Y&R) prepared for the industry in 1993 entitled ETS Issue Language Exploratory. The ad attempted to fabricate language minimalizing the issue of secondhand smoke for use in public messaging. [22] Another draft ad entitled "All the Air We Breathe is Secondhand" , used Y & R concocted phrases like "EPA's scare du jour," "incidental smoke" and "rotten science". [23] In 1994, Philip Morris ran a series of ads in newspapers (including the Wall Street Journal) titled, "Were You Misled?" with the intent of publicizing the alleged flaws in EPA's risk assessment. [24], [25], [26]

Additional tobacco industry attacks

In a 1993 memorandum titled "ETS" (for "environmental tobacco smoke), Thomas Humber of Philip Morris' giant PR firm Burson-Marsteller (B-M) writes to Ellen Merlo of Philip Morris Corporate Affairs (PM) to signal the start of PM's war against the EPA after EPA pronounced secondhand smoke a group A carcinogen. In the memo, Humber emphasized how PM needed to discredit the EPA, portray the agency as corrupt, encourage other businesses to oppose EPA, and cast EPA as an agency under siege. Humber tells Merlo PM needs to sue EPA ("Sue the bastards!") as a way to help the industry regain credibility, encourage other companies to fight EPA, and "delay or cloud" other legal actions against the company.

In an ironic twist, while Humber says Philip Morris needs to keep major employers from voluntarily stampeding towards smoke-free workplace policies, he at the same time says the company needs to position itself as a defender of democratic principles and protector of "rights for all." Humber boasts how, using the front groups "Citizens for a Sound Economy" and the "Institute for Regulatory Policy," B-M arranged a symposium where the keynote speaker was the vice-president of the U.S., then assured that the media coverage generated by the event was dominated by the corporate message of "overregulation." Humber also pointed out that PM could find allies in ventilation businesses, since they stand to profit from PM's stance that ventilation is the solution to problems caused by secondhand smoke (not smoking bans). [27]

Public relations tactics

In July 2005 the New York Times reported that the EPA's Office of Research and Development was seeking outside public relations consultants, to be paid up to $5 million over five years to polish its web site, organize focus groups on how to buff the office's image and ghostwrite articles "for publication in scholarly journals and magazines".

The non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) asked the agency's Inspector General to investigate the request for proposals. PEER questioned the "appropriateness of using funds for image enhancement that would otherwise be available for public health and environmental research." They cited laws prohibiting the use of tax dollars "for publicity or propaganda purposes." The EPA was recently awarded two PR contracts totaling $150,000; for the writing and placement of "good stories" about EPA's research office in consumer and trade publications. [28]

PR contractors

In February 2007, O'Dwyer's PR Daily reported that the "Environmental Protection Agency's radiation unit has moved to award a crisis PR contract to Widmeyer Communications without a competitive review. ... The firm has previously conducted focus groups with EPA emergency responders and communicators to develop responses in the event of such a disaster." [29]

Leadership

Key personnel

Previous administrators

Articles & sources

SourceWatch articles

References

  1. Brian Merchant, "What Crucial Environment and Health Programs Were Sacrificed in the Budget?" AlterNet, April 13, 2011.
  2. Juliet Eilperin, "Chemical Industry Funds Aid EPA Study: Effect of Substances on Children Probed," Washington Post, October 26, 2004
  3. Michael Hawthorne, "EPA tells polluters it wants less data. Rule changes would let firms emit more before reporting it, Chicago Tribune, September 28, 2005
  4. John Heilprin, "EPA Looking at Using Human Tests," Associated Press, November 30, 2004
  5. Wendy Wagner, Katherine Barnes, and Lisa Peters, "Rulemaking in the Shade: An Empirical Study of EPA's Air Toxic Emission Standards." WCL Journals & Law Reviews, Vol. 63, Iss. 1, 2011.
  6. The CAFO Papers: Animal Factories Using Closed-Door Meetings with Bush Administration to Evade Environmental Laws, Sierra Club Press Room, pg 1-2, May - October 2003
  7. Smithfield Foods Fined $12.6 Million in Largest Clean Water Act Fine Ever, U.S. Department of Justice, News Release, August 1997
  8. Appeals Court Upholds Ruling Against Smithfield Foods for Polluting Virginia River, Environmental Protection Agency, News Release, September 1999
  9. Andrew Schneider NYC under an asbestos cloud, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 2002
  10. U.S. Government Testing Programs, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, accessed February 2009
  11. U.S. Government Testing Programs, PETA.org, accessed February 2009
  12. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), PETA.org, accessed February 2009
  13. Harding, A. More compounds failing phase I. FDA chief warns that high drug attrition rate is pushing up the cost of drug development. The Scientist, August 6th 2004
  14. NHP Study: Evidence from Europeans for Medical Progress and Antidote-Europe, Safer Medicines Campaign, pg 1, accessed February 2009
  15. Summary of the Toxic Substances Control Act, Environmental Protection Agency, January 2009
  16. Environmental Protection Agency, PETA.org, accessed January 1, 2008
  17. Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), EPA.gov, August 2007
  18. Office of Pesticide Programs, PETA.org, accessed February 2009
  19. Don't Let the EPA Paint the White House Red! Animal Tests Commonly Required by the EPA Assess Pesticide Toxicity, PETA.org, accessed February 2009
  20. The Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking, EPA, December 1992
  21. Elvis Lives, Philip Morris, Bates No. 2025659654, May 18, 1993
  22. The ETS Issue Language Exploratory, Young & Rubicam , May 18, 1993. 12 pp. Philip Morris Bates No. 2501342686/2697
  23. Draft ad copy, January 1993. Philip Morris Bates No. 2501342729
  24. Were You Misled? This Week, Read Another Side of the Story about Secondhand Tobacco Smoke., Wall Street Journal, June 27, 1994, Bates No. TI16601221
  25. Were You Misled?, Phillip Morris, 1994, Bates No. 2046725244
  26. Were You Misled?, Phillip Morris, June 24, 1994, Bates No. 970259842/9843
  27. Tom Humber, Burson Marsteller ETS, Memorandum, 16 pp. Philip Morris Bates No. 2024713141/3156, 1993
  28. Felicity Barringer Public Relations Campaign for Research Office at E.P.A. Includes Ghostwriting Articles, New York Times, July 2005
  29. O'Dwyer's PR Daily, February 2007
  30. Agency Administrators, EPA.gov, accessed December 2009

External articles

External resources