Lone Tree Council and TRW

DIOXIN UPDATE # 136

January 22, 2009

www.trwnews.net

 

 

Ousted EPA Official surprise visit at last week’s EPA meeting

 

Mary Gade, the former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief for Region 5 in Chicago, paid a surprise visit to a Thursday meeting at Saginaw Valley State University.
Gade was ousted from her post in May 2008 by the Bush administration, allegedly for taking too-tough a stance on the process for cleaning up toxic dioxins from historic Dow Chemical discharges in the Saginaw Bay watershed.
Gade drove to SVSU to tell EPA and state Department of Environmental Quality officials that she thinks a new Superfund process that's since been instituted for dealing with pollution in the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers and Saginaw Bay will only delay a comprehensive cleanup, potentially for years.

 

Link to above Bay City Times article:

http://www.mlive.com/news/bay-city/index.ssf/2009/01/ousted_epa_official_stop_dragg.html

 

Link to Midland Daily News Story:

http://ourmidland.com/articles/2009/01/16/local_news/1495602.txt

 

 

A new year and more delays:

2009 arrived with EPA, Dow and MDEQ once again pursuing closed-door secret negotiation to address one of the nations worst sites of contamination.  Abandoning the public and transparent RCRA regulation, which is in place and which clearly details THE LAW and the obligations of Dow to remedy their contamination, the agencies and Dow are opting for a voluntary guidance. It’s called the Superfund Alternative Site process.

 

2009 arrived with yet again a new set of EPA community relations’ people, technical people and for the third time in 6 years a new plan on how to involve the community. Not sure how you honestly involve a community when all the details of the negotiations, even after completion, are not subject to public disclosure—the agencies are diligent in their efforts to conflate an involved community with a community that has access to information and a legitimate seat at the table.  

 

History supports Dow’s penchant for getting what they want

 

As proposed, the SAS process leaves the City of Midland and the Dow plant under RCRA while using Superfund “ like” authority on the river and bay. Dow asked for this process--- In March of 2008, Dow sent an e-mail marked “ confidential” with an attached letter to EPA HQ stating they disagreed with RCRA being the controlling authority on the river but it should be the authority for the company’s plant site and City of Midland. Dow said they preferred to use a superfund process.  The letter was copied only to EPA head of enforcement, Granta Nakayama. It was not a coincidence that on retainer for Dow at this time was Stephen Herman formerly with Mr. Nakayama’s office. What Dow proposed in that letter is what EPA rolled out this fall under the leadership of Gade's replacement, Ms Lyn Buhl, also out of Mr. Nakayama’s office.  

 

The past is indeed prologue. Since the discovery of this contamination in the Tittabawassee River in the mid 1980’s Dow has been politically nimble in successfully creating delays. This clean up would be well on its way if not for years of capitulation to the will of the company by a litany of elected officials; Jim Blanchard, Reagan’s EPA, John Engler and yes, Bush’s EPA and Jennifer Granholm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Granholm requesting an expeditious cleanup was as bizarre for several reasons:  Little sampling on the Saginaw River has taken place; 2. Dow filed suit against the state for requiring testing in the Saginaw Bay; 3. Dow has numerous deficient work plans outstanding 4. Dow continues to resistant response activities to protect impacted residents from dioxin 5. Way overdue was and remains Dow work plan for the Tittabawassee River.

 

Equally bizarre was the Governor reaching out to Bush appointee, Stephen Johnson, head of the EPA---Google his name with the word malfeasance and you will be inundated with commentary and instances of this man’s disregard for public health, the environment and the law. But this is the man Jennifer Granholm reached out-- From ThinkProgress.org -

 

“Johnson will leave office having tarnished the reputation of the agency, decimated staff morale, and degraded the health and safety of the American public. Condemnation of his tenure is near-universal. Four former Republican administrators — Russell Train (Nixon and Ford), William K. Reilly (George H.W. Bush), Christine Todd Whitman (George W. Bush), and William Ruckelshaus (Nixon and Reagan) all criticized Johnson to the Inquirer for deferring to the president and polluters instead of obeying his sworn oath to enforce the law.

 

The Dow Path Forward

In summary this SAS process was done because Dow wanted it. The Bush administration and the Granholm administration embraced political expediency above the interest of the community and the watershed. Mary Gade had to be fired. She leaned hard on Dow’s foot dragging and used the law to make cleanup happen.  Shortly after Gade was fired, Granholm charged DEQ policy advisor, Frank Ruswick with looking for “ a new path forward” to address this contamination. According to e-mails and conversations Dow sent their lobbyist to EPA's Johnson and Granholm  asking for EPA to take this project over.  

 

There are two letters from March of 2008 written by MDEQ Director Chester, one of them also signed by Gade praising and supporting the RCRA process. The joint letter said RCRA was the path to a “final remedy”.  So what happened? Were the heads of the two agencies overseeing this massive contamination wrong? NO.  Dow was lobbying for something else—the company hates RCRA because it’s transparent---- their preference is a dark corner. Sampling drives Dow’s activities under RCRA and we all know Dow just cannot “spin” those high dioxin numbers. Dow doesn't want to deal with the Saginaw River or Bay; they tried to get out of it in 2002 and in 2004 during the Framework negotiations- they will try again under the SAS process. Bay County you might want to pay attention.

 

The forest through the trees

For years progressive and conservative alike have ranted about government not working, not being open and not being accountable. We heard it this entire election cycle:  The culture of corruption, unfettered access and influence of industry and the need for open government in a healthy democracy.  The need to bring change, reform, mavericks and shake things up. We read it and heard it for months on end………….. Well every issue campaigned on and ranted about is talking place right here in our backyard with Dow and this extensive contamination. Dow has undue influence and access, the agencies are not being accountable, and the process is not transparent. MDEQ and EPA have been silenced by their respective administrations.

 

The rhetoric of the campaigns are not abstractions or concepts— the failings of government are very real and tangible with real ramifications for the people who live along or use the resources of these contaminated waterways and floodplains. The silence and capitulation of elected officials who cannot at a minimum defend transparency is inexcusable. Tolerating years of delay and saying nothing as the public is shut out once again is inexcusable. Capitulating under the guise that the new SAS process will render resolution to this contamination is gullible, naïve…at its worst it’s doing the politically expedient thing.  

 

Make no mistake about it. This SAS process is being negotiated because of the raw political clout leveraged by Dow Chemical. It is being negotiated because Bush and Granholm sold out to the polluter. It was orchestrated and it was planned.

 

Please visit the TRW website to view the following documents:

 

SAS issues paper

Abbreviated timeline

Dow letter to EPA HQ

Granholm’s letter to Steven Johnson

 

 

Best Regards,

Michelle Hurd Riddick

Lone Tree Council

 

 

Source: Lone Tree Council / TRW

For additional articles like this one, go to the Tittabawassee River Watch web site www.trwnews.net. for complete coverage of the Tittabawassee River Dow Chemical dioxin contamination saga.. The source organization's web site link is listed above. The Newspaper / Media page of our site contains an extensive archive of media articles dating back to January 2002. The Newspaper / Media page may be accessed by scrolling down to the bottom of the CONTENTS section and clicking on the Newspaper/Media link.