The EPA: They’re Protecting Someone, But It Isn’t You
The Tainted Leadership
Much like the leadership of the FDA, the most recent administrators have some very questionable ties.
2013 – Present: Gina McCarthy
McCarthy has only held her position for three years, but oh, has a lot happened during her reign so far. She has worked in government for her entire career, based on our research, and we didn’t find any ties to sketchy characters and companies (although doesn’t working at the EPA cover that in itself?), but here’s an overview of some of the most serious incidents that have occurred during her time.
Flint water crisis: Toxic levels of lead, Legionella bacteria, and other hazards were found in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, which was caused by the serious mismanagement of the water supply.
- In late April 2014, in an effort to save about $5 million over less than two years, Flint switched from purchasing treated Lake Huron water from Detroit, as it had done for 50 years, to treating water from the Flint River.
- Shortly after the switch, residents began complaining about the water’s color, taste, and odor.
- Boil-water advisories were issued by the city due to coliform bacteria detection in August and September 2014.
- In October 2014, a General Motors plant in Flint stopped using the municipal water because it was corroding car parts.
- Turns out, the water supply was contaminated with high levels of lead, and THMs, (a chlorine byproduct of disinfecting water, with which long-term exposure has been linked to cancer and other diseases) were detected in some areas.
- It took 18 months of resident complaints for the state to issue a warning. On October 1, 2015, Flint officials finally began urging citizens to stop drinking the water.
You might be wondering what the EPA’s role in this was.
In February 2015, EPA water expert Miguel A. Del Toral identified potential problems with Flint’s water after being alerted by resident LeeAnne Walters. He confirmed his suspicions in April and summarized his concerns in an internal memo in June. That memo was leaked to the public. Despite Del Toral’s dire warnings, the EPA did not officially release the memo to the public until November. In fact, emails show that EPA Region 5 Director Susan Hedman (who resigned in January) tried to keep the astronomically high levels of lead in the water under wraps.
So, for at least six months, the agency knew that Flint residents’ health was in jeopardy, but said nothing. As early as April 2015, the EPA knew there were problems with the water supply, but instead of DOING anything about it, the agency sought a legal opinion on whether the EPA could force action…which wasn’t completed until November! That’s right – Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the EPA spent at least SIX MONTHS arguing over the interpretation of a 25-year old regulation instead of notifying the public that the water supply was likely posing serious health risks.
When asked about the delay, an EPA official said the agency’s role is to set standards, not to notify residents about contaminants in their water supplies. In other words, the EPA said, “That’s not our job.”
Not only were an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 children exposed to lead, at least 12 people in the region died from Legionnaires’ in parts of 2014 and 2015.
On March 21, the Flint Water Advisory Task Force (FWATF) published a report on its findings and recommendations regarding the water crisis. The report outlines failures at “all levels of government.”
Among the alarming findings:
EPA failed to properly exercise its authority prior to January 2016. EPA’s conduct casts doubt on its willingness to aggressively pursue enforcement (in the absence of widespread public outrage).
EPA has accepted differing compliance strategies that have served to mute its effectiveness in detection and mitigation of lead contamination risks.
EPA was hesitant and slow to insist on proper corrosion control measures in Flint.
On June 16, McCarthy sent a letter to Flint officials stating that the city has “significant challenges” to providing clean, safe drinking water in the long term, including a treatment plant that is not “adequately staffed, operated or administered.”
A week later, the EPA announced that tap water in Flint is now safe to drink, as long as it is filtered.
Gold King Mine wastewater spill: On August 5, 2015, an EPA clean-up crew caused an environmental disaster of epic proportions in Colorado.
- When attempting to pump out and decontaminate sludge in the mine, they accidentally (some believe it was intentional, but we will get to that in a moment) destabilized a dam of loose rock, which resulted in the spilling of three million gallons of mine waste water and tailings, including heavy metals including cadmium and lead, and other toxic elements -including arsenic, beryllium, zinc, iron and copper – into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River.
- The EPA was criticized for not warning Colorado and New Mexico until the day after the waste water spilled, despite the fact that the agency knew there was a risk of collapse.
- Last year, before the spill, some predicted that the EPA would “foul the Animas River on purpose in order to secure Superfund money.”
Then – surprise! On September 7, 2016, this story broke: EPA names Gold King Mine a Superfund site
It gets better: On August 25, 2016, The Daily Caller reported that Environmental Restoration LLC – the company that the EPA contracted to help clean up the mine – was awarded nearly $2.7 million not long after the disaster. What does this mean? The Daily Caller spoke to Adam Andrzejewski, CEO, and founder of transparency group Open The Books, and here’s what he said:
“EPA’s decision to reward the firm involved in the Gold King Mine disaster shows they’re more concerned about protecting themselves and their friends than the environment.
The EPA itself is a Superfund site – sadly, it’s a cesspool of corruption, cronyism and incompetence. In the real world, poor performance is punished but with the federal government it is too often tolerated and applauded. The EPA is one of the worst offenders.”
In 2015, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) introduced a resolution of impeachment against McCarthy because he says she lied to Congress during testimony about the EPA’s new clean water rules. The claim is that she perjured herself three times.
McCarthy has claimed – repeatedly – that the EPA “prioritizes transparency, openness, and participation in all that we do” but recent events do not support that claim.
In July, a pipeline outside of an ExxonMobil plant in Baytown, Texas, leaked a highly flammable gas into the surrounding community. Unfortunately, this kind of incident is not unusual, reports The Hill:
Chemical releases such as Baytown’s happen with startling frequency and have the potential to impact thousands. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified 466 chemical facilities across the nation that each put 100,000 or more people at risk of a poison gas disaster. Since the West, Texas, disaster just a little over 3 years ago, there have been more than 430 chemical incidents resulting in 82 deaths.
Despite this, the EPA recently proposed changes to its chemical disaster prevention rules (called the Risk Management Plan, or RMP) that specifically exclude warning residents about potentially dangerous facilities in their communities.
And more cover-ups…
In August, a government watchdog group reported that EPA officials concealed life-threatening pollution at a North Carolina Superfund site and moved too slowly in removing the cancer-causing materials.
New York state officials claim the EPA has been “counterproductive” in its response to a drinking water contamination crisis in Hoosick Falls, an upstate town. In a letter to McCarthy, NY officials made some disturbing claims (emphasis mine):
While we always try to work in partnership with the federal government, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) role in the Hoosick Falls situation was certainly not helpful, and was, at times, counterproductive. As you know, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is an unregulated contaminant, although the EPA has known of its existence in drinking water for more than a decade.
The statements and guidance from the EPA’s regional office inexplicably differed from town to town in New York – not to mention from state to state. To further compound this confusion, the guidance from the EPA’s regional office differed from the EPA’s headquarters. In the span of several months, the EPA took no less than three different positions regarding PFOA. This lack of clear direction and, in fact, differing direction caused our agencies great hardship in responding to the situation in Hoosick Falls and more importantly, caused great public concern, frustration, and anxiety.
We believe the EPA’s handling of this matter aggravated the situation, causing undue expense to our agencies, and the EPA should reimburse the state for the extraordinary costs incurred due to the EPA’s mishandling. We estimate that cost to be almost $25 million to date to our taxpayers, with at least $50 million in costs over the coming years.
In January, the EPA officially found that the neonicotinoid imidacloprid can harm bees, the first part of a multi-part effort to study the pesticide family after years of pressure from activists – and millions of unnecessary bee deaths. But has the agency done a thing about it? Nope – the EPA has not officially proposed any measures to further restrict the use of the pesticide. This is sort of a big deal because humanity won’t survive long without bees.
The EPA is also being accused of using “secret science” to write rules without giving the public and outside experts an opportunity to analyze their research.
2009 – 2013: Lisa Jackson
If people are judged by the company they keep, then it’s very unfortunate for Lisa Jackson that she was most recently Governor Jon Corzine’s Chief of Staff. (I’m sure we all recall that nasty little scandal in which 1.2 BILLION dollars of other people’s money vanished out of Corzine’s sweaty little hands).
Since taking the reins of the EPA, Jackson’s handling of the Gulf Oil spill has triggered numerous petitions for her removal from the office. Jackson allowed BP to use a toxic dispersal chemical in the contaminated waters, sparking local outrage.
According to one petition, “Lisa Jackson failed to alert or to seek approval from, the communities and people who would be most impacted by the dispersant. As has been noted in an open letter by leading scientists, the people of the Gulf are unwitting participants in scientific experimentation of a massive scale. This is unethical, immoral, illegal and goes against every scientific principle that Lisa Jackson would have learned in her training. … She was hired to enforce the environmental laws of our country but instead has knowingly and willfully violated them.”
On December 13, 2012, the Assistant Inspector General notified the EPA they would be conducting an audit into record keeping practices associated with the use of private email accounts by Lisa Jackson under the name of “Richard Windsor.” According to documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, Jackson used her private email to conduct official business – including conversations with a lobbyist.
Jackson resigned from her position at the EPA on December 27, 2012. She did not provide a reason for leaving the agency, other than stating it was time for her to pursue new opportunities.
At a House hearing in September 2013, Jackson denied that she tried to evade federal record keeping laws.
We’ll discuss Jackson’s disappointing handling of the Fukushima disaster a little further down the page.
2005 – 2009: Stephen L. Johnson
Johnson’s leadership of the EPA was punctuated by several moves so controversial that even the ethically questionable member of the US Congress called for his resignation.
During his confirmation hearing, he canceled a study he had previously supported – the Children’s Environmental Exposure Research Study – which, horrifyingly, studied the effect of household chemicals and pesticides on small children, and even worse, was partially sponsored by a lobbying group that worked for the large chemical companies. (Don’t worry – the families were compensated up to $1000 AND a t-shirt for promising to expose their kids to potential toxins for three years.)
With that nasty study out of the way, Johnson continued to wreak environmental havoc by (illegally) hampering 17 states from making their own regulations regarding automotive emissions, bringing him before the Congress again amidst a cry for his resignation. Under Johnson, the EPA made flawed pro-industry regulations that were later overthrown in court.
After his tenure at the EPA, Johnson has been added to the boards of Miracle-Gro and FlexEnergy.
2003 – 2005: Mike Leavitt
Leavitt has no background in science whatsoever. He earned a BS in economics and business. He worked on numerous political campaigns before he became the governor of Utah. He became extremely wealthy by starting a large insurance company and also served on the board of directors for Utah Power and Light. Somehow, despite his lack of education or experience in environmental subjects, he was appointed to the EPA in 2003. Environmentalists protested his nomination, citing that he had allowed polluting industries to develop millions of acres of Utah wilderness.
While in charge of the EPA, Leavitt drew fire for using memos written by coal industry lobbyists when issuing a proposed plan to regulate mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants (a plan that critics said was far too lax to have any positive effect). Leavitt’s lethargic record for regulating the use of toxic chemicals for fracking was cause for a congressional hearing.
Leavitt subsequently became the Secretary of Health and Human Services and is now the owner of a consulting group, Leavitt Partners, which assists states in implementing Obamacare.
The EPA and Industry
The EPA has been accused of covering up crimes committed by public health enemy #1, Monsanto, as well as Dow Chemicals. The EPA’s investigation proved that Monsanto knowingly tainted Lysol (used by moms everywhere to sanitize babies’ toys) with dioxin. However, no criminal charges have been forthcoming as of this publication.
The EPA also quietly closed an investigation of Monsanto’s twisted cover-up in the Nitro, West Virginia herbicide plant accident that exposed hundreds of workers to deadly carcinogen dioxin, which can still be found in nearby streams and lakes. Despite the fact that this investigation simply disappeared, Monsanto agreed in February to pay $93 million dollars to residents of Nitro in order to settle a class action lawsuit.
The EPA has refused to ban a pesticide made by Dow Chemicals, the controversial 2,4-D, the same substance used in Agent Orange. This pesticide will be used on corn crops that have been genetically engineered to be resistant to the toxin. Agent Orange causes cancer, hormone disruption, genetic mutations and neurotoxicity and will be soon be coming to a corn field near you.
The EPA has refused a petition to ban BPA in industry, citing a lack of scientific evidence of the negative effects of the chemical. BPA is commonly found tainting canned goods, especially soup, and bottled water that has been exposed to heat. (Author’s note: It would probably be very expensive for industry to have to replace all those containers with BPA-free cans and bottles.)
When studies finally emerged that linked Monsanto’s Round-up to toxicity and death, the public rejoiced. Finally, maybe that stuff would no longer be sprayed on 90% of the food grown in America. They rejoiced too soon, though, because, despite that irrefutable proof, the EPA actually increased the allowable level of glyphosate for consumable goods. That’s right – even though everyone knows it causes cancer, they allowed even more of it to be used.
The EPA and Radiation Sleight-of-Hand
Our country is still being inundated with radiation from the Fukushima disaster. The EPA is right on top of things with their response, of course. First, they promptly closed down 8 of 18 radiation measuring stations in the hardest hit area, California. Then, to further calm the good people of the nation, the EPA magically changed the numbers. They raised the amount of radiation that we can safely absorb and ingest. It wouldn’t do for the large factory farms to be unable to sell their tainted produce or for the huge dairies to be stuck with all that radioactive milk.
The radiation in our food supply is of so little concern to the EPA that they’ve actually begun to tell us that a little bit of radiation is good for us. According to a report citing the EPA, a bit of radiation can prevent cancer, instead of causing it.
Since our minds can be at ease now, the EPA has decided that they are no longer planning to monitor the radiation levels in our food supply. They will return to their previous practice of only monitoring random samples every three months. Yep. Really. The Environmental Protection Agency of the United States is no longer monitoring radiation levels in our food and water supplies as of April 14th. That will definitely keep them from getting those inconveniently high readings that might affect Big Agri’s prosperity.
“I really am horrified,” said Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “It’s quite staggering and it seems to be part of the pattern of the EPA trying to make sure that there are no measurements that could cause people to be concerned.”
In a very clear case of the wolves watching the baby lambs, the EPA is turning over monitoring decisions and responsibility to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The EPA: Just another instrument of government deceit
One controversy after another can be attributed to the EPA, an agency charged with protecting the air we breathe, the soil in which we grow our food and the water that we drink.
So who are they really protecting?
At the bottom of each of those controversies can be found ties to the corporate interests and big businesses that really run the country. Decisions are being auctioned off to industry lobbyists with the most money and influence.
Environmental protection is only the rule of thumb if it goes along with Agenda 21 (more about that in an upcoming article) and corporate interests. The EPA is all over the green agenda in cases that benefit the redistribution of wealth, but the agency completely ignores blatant crimes against the earth if it involves fracking for the benefit of a natural gas company.
I used to content myself in believing that if something wasn’t safe, it wouldn’t be used in America, that forward-thinking, technically brilliant land that supported life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Sadly, in the case of yet another federal agency, safety is in the eye of the highest bidder.