ACTON ALERT: No Dow Chemical Shills at EPA; Remove Scott Pruitt from EPA
April 4, 2018
CREDO Action & Bess Levin / The Atlantic & Alexander C. Kaufman / The Huffington Post
Once again, Donald Trump's contempt for the environment is on full display with his recent nomination of Peter Wright, a lawyer for Dow Chemical and a former Monsanto employee, to head up the EPA office that oversees chemical spills at Superfund sites. Dow Chemical is eager to profit from sales of a toxic chemical "originally derived from a nerve gas developed by Nazi Germany." Meanwhile, Trump's EPA chief Scott Pruitt faces mounting pressure to resign amid ballooning scandals.
ACTON ALERT: Reject Trump's toxic EPA nominee
WASHINGTON (April 2, 2018) -- Once again, Donald Trump's contempt for the environment is on full display with his recent nomination at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Peter Wright, a lawyer for Dow Chemical and a former Monsanto employee, is Trump's pick to head up the EPA office that oversees chemical spills at Superfund sites.
This nomination is another in a long line of attempts by Trump to put the fox in charge of the henhouse: Dow Chemical is linked to at least 100 of the more than 1,300 toxic Superfund spills across the country. (1)
It's beyond dangerous to put a Dow shill in charge of cleaning up his company's toxic spills. We must pressure the Senate to reject Wright's nomination before it ever comes up for a vote.
ACTION: Tell the Senate: No Dow Chemical shills at the EPA. Click here to sign the petition.
According to a biography by the American Bar Association, Wright "manages the legal issues and outside counsel with respect to Dow's largest and most significant environmental matter, the mid-Michigan dioxin matter," a toxic Superfund site that Dow has been litigating for more than 40 years and has yet to clean up. (2)
The dioxin contamination, which is highly toxic and linked to a whole host of health problems including cancer, extends 50 miles down the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers and into the Saginaw Bay, and continuously threatens communities along its banks. (3) Earlier this year, Dow won a major lawsuit that prevented local residents from suing the company for the dioxin contamination. (4)
Wright's nomination is yet another example of the Trump administration's cozy relationship with Dow Chemical. Dow Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris headed up Trump's now-disbanded American Manufacturing Council, and last year, the company donated $1 million to Trump's inaugural committee. (5)
So it wasn't a surprise that after a brief meeting with Liveris last March, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt overturned an Obama-era rule banning chlorpyrifos, the popular brain-harming pesticide manufactured by Dow. (6)
Activism to stop Trump's nominees works. In just the last few months, hundreds of thousands of CREDO members took action to stop the nominations of a different chemical industry shill, Michael Dourson, at the EPA, climate change denier Kathleen Hartnett White at the Council on Environmental Quality and racist climate denier Sam Clovis at the Department of Agriculture.
The Senate will be taking up Wright's nomination soon, so we must act now to stop another dangerous Trump nominee from devastating our environment.
ACTION: Tell the Senate: No Dow Chemical shills at the EPA. Click here to sign the petition.
Thanks for everything you do.
Josh Nelson, Co-Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
1. Mark Hand, "Trump nominates Dow Chemical official to lead emergency response to toxic spills," Think Progress, March 5, 2018.
2. American Bar Association, "Making Rain: How to Bring Your Next Environmental Case Into the Door and Keep Them Coming," accessed March 16, 2018.
3. World Health Association, "Dioxins and their effects on human health," October 2016.
4. Associated Press, "Dow Chemical wins key ruling in dioxin pollution dispute," Jan. 26, 2018.
5. Bess Levin, "Dow Chemical Donates $1 Million to Trump, Asks Administration to Ignore Pesticide Study," Vanity Fair, April 20, 2017.
6. Associated Press, "EPA chief met with Dow Chemical CEO before deciding not to ban toxic pesticide," June 30, 2017.
Dow Chemical Donates $1 Million to Trump,
Asks Administration to Ignore Pesticide Study
The fact that CEO Andrew Liveris is a
close adviser to Donald Trump can't hurt.
Bess Levin / The Atlantic
(APRIL 20, 2017) -- Chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion are a group of pesticides that are a big money-maker for Dow Chemical, with the company selling approximately 5 million pounds of chlorpyrifos in the US each year, according to the Associated Press.
Dow Chemical, however, has a small problem on its hands, and it's not the fact that the pesticide was "originally derived from a nerve gas developed by Nazi Germany," per the AP, though that's certainly not great for marketing materials.
In this case, it's the fact that studies by federal scientists have found that chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion are harmful to almost 1,800 "critically threatened or endangered species."
Historically, groups like the Environmental Protection Agency would want to avoid killing frogs, fish, birds, mammals, and plants, which is why the regulator and two others that it works with to enforce the Endangered Species Act are reportedly "close to issuing findings expected to result in new limits on how and where the highly toxic pesticides can be used," the AP reports.
Luckily for Dow, the EPA is now run by climate-change skeptic and general enemy of living things Scott Pruitt, who last month said he would reverse "an Obama-era effort to bar the use of Dow's chlorpyrifos pesticide on food after recent peer-reviewed studies found that even tiny levels of exposure could hinder the development of children's brains."
Plus, Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris is good buddies with President Donald Trump. So, you can see how the company, which the AP reports also spent $13.6 million on lobbying last year, might feel like it is in the clear.
According to the AP, lawyers representing Dow and two other companies that manufacture the pesticides in question (known as organophosphates) have sent letters to the heads of the EPA, the Department of Commerce, and the Fish and Wildlife Service, asking them to "set aside" the results of the studies, claiming that they are "fundamentally flawed."
Not surprisingly, the scientists hired by Dow "to produce a lengthy rebuttal to the government studies" have come up with diverging results.
In addition to Pruitt's long history of, per the AP, aligning "himself in legal disputes with the interests of executives and corporations," Dow has another reason to be hopeful the government will conveniently ignore any lingering concerns about killing off entire species: Andrew Liveris is a close adviser to Donald Trump who was literally standing next to the president in February when he signed an executive order "mandating the creation of task forces at federal agencies to roll back government regulations."
Dow also donated $1 million to underwrite Trump's inaugural festivities, the AP reports, but God help the person who dares to wonder aloud if the check was some sort of an attempt to curry favor with the administration. As Rachelle Schikorra, Dow's director of public affairs, told the AP, any such suggestion is "completely off the mark."
Scott Pruitt Buffeted By Growing
Pressure To Resign From EPA
Even former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie,
who weathered "Bridgegate," wonders how Pruitt
will survive the furor over his Capitol Hill rental
Alexander C. Kaufman / The Huffington Post
(April 2, 2018) -- Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt faces mounting pressure to resign amid ballooning scandals over his spending habits and a sweetheart deal to rent a Capitol Hill condominium linked to a gas industry lobbyist.
A coalition of environmental groups last Wednesday launched a website called BootPruitt.com and offered a series of Op-Eds lambasting him as part of the first coordinated campaign to oust the administrator. On Thursday, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) called for Pruitt to resign.
And on Sunday, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), whose so-called "Bridgegate" scandal over politically motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge helped tank his presidential ambitions, became the first major Republican to call out the ethical concerns over Pruitt's rental.
"I don't know how you survive this one, and if he has to go, it's because he never should have been there in the first place," Christie said on ABC News' "This Week."
Pruitt has come under scrutiny over his accommodations in Washington after ABC News reported last week that he rented a room in a luxury townhouse co-owned by the wife of a top gas industry lobbyist. That same day, Bloomberg News reported that Pruitt paid $50-a-night for the room, well below market value for a place in that neighborhood. The EPA's Office of General Counsel issued a hasty memo on Thursday arguing that the administrator paid a fair rate.
By Friday, ABC News reported that Pruitt's adult daughter, a White House intern, stayed in another room at the property. Justina Fugh, the EPA's ethics lawyer, struggled to defend the arrangement when pressed by BuzzFeed News: "I don't have any facts to know what the daughter did and didn't pay. I don't have any facts to know if she's a dependent on his taxes."
The ethical storm over Pruitt's housing comes amid a groundswell of criticism over his spending.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) sent a letter to the EPA's inspector general last week highlighting the cost of Pruitt's use of taxpayer-funded security details on trips home to Tulsa, Oklahoma, a family vacation to Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and an outing to the Rose Bowl college football game in Pasadena, California.
Pruitt's penchant for first-class flights has drawn particular scrutiny. Federal regulations require government employees to be "prudent" when "making official travel arrangements" and book "the least expensive class of travel that meets their needs."
Yet Pruitt spent between $2,000 and $2,600 on first-class flights to Oklahoma, and regularly books $1,400 to $4,000 flights to Boston, New York and Corpus Christi, Texas, according to The Washington Post. He often stays at luxury hotels.
Pruitt's international travel costs are especially high. His trip to Italy for an environmental summit last June cost more than $120,000. Pruitt's trip to Morocco in December to promote liquefied natural gas -- a bizarre decision for an EPA administrator -- cost nearly $40,000, according to E&E News.
The EPA did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.
Pruitt is the latest in a line of Trump administration officials who have faced a firestorm of criticism over their ethics lapses. In September, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned over spending more than $1 million on chartered planes and military flights.
Brenda Fitzgerald, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stepped down for buying shares of a tobacco company while leading the nation's top health agency.
Pruitt's chummy industry ties and lavish travel are not new. He cultivated a deep relationship with the oil and gas industry as Oklahoma's attorney general before President Donald Trump named him to head the EPA last year.
In 2011, he allowed lawyers at Devon Energy Corporation, the Oklahoma City-based oil and gas giant, to write a three-page complaint to the EPA under his letterhead, which he signed and sent as his own.
He made his name on the national stage suing the EPA more than a dozen times to block rules such as the Clean Power Plan, President Barack Obama's landmark greenhouse gas regulation, which Pruitt is in the process of repealing.
He championed Exxon Mobil Corp. in investigations into whether the oil giant committed fraud by covering up evidence that emissions from burning fossil fuels warm the planet.
Fossil fuel interests returned the favors. Between 2002 and 2016, Pruitt received more than $300,000 in donations from the oil, gas and coal industries. Even more money went to a political action committee and a super PAC set up to help him get re-elected and aid like-minded politicians.
Yet only a fraction of the money went to campaigns while the fundraising groups paid for trips Pruitt took to places such as Hawaii and New Orleans, where he stayed in luxury hotels, according to filings reviewed by HuffPost in January 2017.
Despite the escalating calls for his resignation, strong support from the Republican-controlled Congress may serve to insulate Pruitt -- no GOP House or Senate member has joined the push for him to step down. To gain perspective on his survival chances, it helps to look back at the resignation of Anne Gorsuch Burford, the EPA administrator to whom Pruitt is most often compared.
Gorsuch Burford went to war with environmental regulations during her 22-month tenure under President Ronald Reagan. She slashed the agency's budget by 22 percent and, as The Washington Post wrote in her 2004 obituary, "boasted that she reduced the thickness of the book of clean water regulations from six inches to a half-inch."
In 1982, Gorsuch Burford faced a congressional investigation into her use of the Superfund to clean up pollution sites. In December of that year, she refused to turn over 42 documents to a House energy subcommittee, arguing that the president ordered her to invoke executive privilege. She was cited for contempt of Congress and forced to resign.
Pruitt faces much better odds in a historically hyper-partisan Congress. Democrats controlled the House in 1982, and voted 259 to 105 to hold Gorsuch Burford in contempt, with 55 Republicans joining 204 Democrats to vote against her. Just four Democrats voted with 101 Republicans to oppose the citation, according to a report from The New York Times' archive.
Pruitt, meanwhile, is often lauded by Republicans who see him as an effective operator for the White House's deregulatory agenda and an agitational avatar who riles Democrats and environmentalists.
In December, the National Review and The Weekly Standard, two neo-conservative magazines whose writers spearheaded old-guard Republicans' #NeverTrump movement, published fawning profiles of Pruitt as cover stories a week apart from each other.
On Monday, the EPA announced a proposal to significantly roll back Obama-era regulations on vehicular fuel standards, marking yet another victory for the Trump administration's deregulatory agenda if the move is allowed to take effect.
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