Call it “one step up and two steps back,” or call it cowardice, the move to abandoned proposed chemical rules by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, looks and sounds like intimidation.
But in the wake of the EPA’s former Administrator Lisa Jackson, a gutsy lady who was not known for backing down (even in the face of highly funded lobbyists), I guess it should come as no surprise that the EPA first drafted, and then pulled, two key features that would have made the nation’s chemical manufacturers achieve at least a modicum of transparency.
The first item was a list of “chemicals of concern”, whose dangers can be identified by consulting a MSDS, or material safety data sheet – providing the manufacturer does not conceal them under the generous umbrella of trade secrets, or what the EPA euphemistically calls “confidential business information” (CBI).
The second, which deals solely with the aforementioned CBI’s, would have required these same manufacturers to reveal the identity of all, or almost all, the components of any patented formulation which they intended to make and/or sell in the U.S. The only sop to trade secrets was a limited form of protection which did not extend to health and safety studies conducted on the unknown or dubious components of each product.
Step forward new EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, another female but one who leans toward the business sector. In fact, her best environmental recommendation to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was a carbon credit scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – a method which the Christian Science Monitor calls (and rightly so) “a ‘Wild West’ marketplace ripe for fraud, exaggeration, and poorly run projects that probably do little to ease global warming.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Add to that the fumble that McCarthy made as head of RadNet, a radiation-monitoring network, one-fifth of whose elements were non-performing for an average of more than four months when Fukushima began vomiting up radioactive isotopes iodine-131 and cesium, to name a few.
Why? According to the U.S. Inspector General, the program had not only failed to complete milestones on schedule, but was years behind schedule thanks to McCarthy’s failure to keep track of the project.
McCarthy, now in charge of environmental issues – including environments that are harmful to human health – is more concerned with stopping the talk about EPA regulations killing business than she is with (the largely unknown but insidious) effects that new chemicals might have on any and all of Planet Earth’s inhabitants.
Unfortunately, no one lobbies the trees, frogs and eagles because they don’t vote.
Granted, McCarthy is between a rock and a hard place; she can’t be seen to enforce regulations that stifle commerce, but she also can’t be seen to favor industries with a clear record of hazardous behavior. Oddly enough, it’s her very take on her job at the EPA that is likely to lead to failure in both arenas, which would make her Obama’s scapegoat and devoutly hated on both sides of the aisle.
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACEEE) – a consortium of 40 or more entities representing utilities, or electricity generation; transportation; coal production; energy technology; and equipment manufacturing industries – is very evidently a front group for the coal and utility lobby. Thus, when The (Colorado Springs) Gazette runs an editorial stating that closing coal plants will cost 17,000 jobs, we have a very clear sense of the financial and political clout the ACEEE has. And when it says that “Every dollar that goes to compliance with government regulation is one less dollar available for investment in job-creating private businesses”, an American public that has weathered the second worst recession in modern history and still sees no significant job growth is bound to stand up and cheer.
But the cheers aren’t for the EPA, which is being demonized by the left (for being too “green”) and by the right – for what the Competitive Enterprise Institute calls a regulatory burden running 79,000 Federal Register pages and costing American families almost $15,000 each in 2012 dollars. The figures may be questionable but the enmity is clear.
McCarthy clearly wants a retrenchment of the EPA’s pro-regulatory position under Jackson. No one dares estimate the health and environmental costs if regulations are again swept under the rug, as they were pre-Jackson. Case in point is the LG Chem battery plant in Holland, Michigan, where workers are being exposed to a chemical that hasn’t been certified for use in the U.S.