In the growing scandal of the Dow Chemical Company’s insidious creep along the corridors of power at the heart of the United States establishment, the lawyer who once described himself as ‘the company’s dioxin lawyer’ and who led negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) over Dow’s contamination of the Tittabawasee River in Midland, Michigan, looks set to be confirmed as ‘assistant administrator’ at the E.P.A.
In this role, the lawyer Peter C. Wright, nominated by President Trump himself, will oversee the Superfund program which was created to clean up the nation’s most hazardous toxic waste sites. E.P.A. officials cite Mr. Wright’s expertise in environmental law, and his experience at Dow, as valuable qualifications yet his tenure at Dow was mired in controversy. According to the New York Times1:
“But while he led Dow’s legal strategy there, the chemical giant was accused by regulators, and in one case a Dow engineer, of submitting disputed data, misrepresenting scientific evidence and delaying clean-up, according to internal documents and court records as well as interviews with more than a dozen people involved in the project…
“It was during his work on the (Tittabawasee) clean-up that the agency criticized Dow for the clean-up delays, testing lapses and other missteps…
“The E.P.A. also said in an August 2007 memo2 that “Dow has frequently provided information to the public that contradicts agency positions, and generally accepted scientific information.”
Dow Chemical merged with DuPont last year and the merged companies are financially responsible for cleaning up toxic sites where they caused pollution. An analysis of EPA data by The Associated Press reveals Dow and DuPont as responsible parties for over 100 of the toxic Superfund sites currently undergoing, or slated for, clean-up across the US.
Wright is already working at the E.P.A. in an advisory role as he awaits congressional approval and, if confirmed by the Senate, would oversee the office that responds to such large-scale national emergences as oil spills and unauthorized releases of chemicals or radioactive materials. He would also oversee the Superfund hazardous waste clean-up program.
The E.P.A.’s own website is full of gushing praise for Wright, stating that:
“Throughout his career, Mr. Wright has provided legal support for Superfund and other remediation sites. In 2017, he was recognized with a special award for the oversight and reorganization efforts of Dow’s site-remediation efforts.”
While a testimony, on the same site, from John Milner chair, American Bar Association adds: “Throughout his career, Mr. Wright has provided legal support for Superfund and other remediation sites. In 2017, he was recognized with a special award for the oversight and reorganization efforts of Dow’s site-remediation efforts.”
But, how can the EP.A. support Wright’s appointment after so clearly criticising his handling of the Tittabawasee clean-up? This would surely have nothing to do with an apparent shift of priorities within government agencies as appointments under Trump’s regime favour big business and seemingly, in the case of the EPA, Dow Chemical in particular.
Mired in scandal, the recently resigned head of the EP.A. Scott Pruitt, was another Trump appointee and was, no doubt to the delight of Dow Chemical, instrumental in overturning an imminent ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos3:
“Administrator Pruitt was confirmed on February17, 2017. In one of his first formal actions as head of the E.P.A. he disregarded the agency’s ‘vast scientific Record’ that chlorpyrifos poses a risk to consumers and reversed the EPA’s decision -based on more-than-a-decade of accumulated scientific work and evidence- to ban the product.”3
In a letter to the Inspector General, from the United States Senate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren ad Rep, Frank Pallone ask:
‘How did Mr. Pruitt reach the decision he announced on March 29, 2017? What was the timeline leading up to this decision? With whom did he communicate within EPA, the White House, or elsewhere in the administration? With which outside entities did he communicate? Specifically, did Mr. Pruitt have any communication with staff or representatives of Dow Chemical or any pesticide industry trade groups including CropLife America?”
Among Trump’s other early appointees was Dow Chemical CEO, Andrew Liveris, as head of his newly created ‘American Manufacturing Council’. Lawyers representing Dow sent letters to the E.P.A. the Department of Commerce, and the Fish and Wildlife Service, asking them to ‘set aside’ the studies on chlorpyrifos 4. Dow claimed the studies were ‘fundamentally flawed’ and produced a study of its own with an altogether more favourable set of results.
In July 2018, Trump appointed a former Dow Chemical Company executive who worked in the company’s pesticide division to be chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Scott Hutchins has worked for the Dow Chemical Company, since the late ‘80s, in its ‘crop protection’ division, which includes the production of pesticides, and served as the global director for the company’s crop protection services division.
His nomination comes after Trump successfully nominated another former Dow employee, Ted McKinney, to be undersecretary for trade last year. McKinney had worked for almost two decades as part of the company’s lobbying team in Washington.
Dow Chemical made a $1 million donation to President Trump’s inaugural committee.5
Dow Chemical spent $13.6million dollars on lobbying the US Federal Government in 2016 alone.6
1: From Dow’s ‘Dioxin Lawyer’ to Trump’s Choice to Run Superfund
2: Dows History of Impeding MDEQ Efforts to Implement Corrective Action for Off-Site Contamination
3: Dow Apologist resigns as head of trump’s Environmental Protection Agency
4: Dow Chemical Asks US Government Agencies to Ignore US Government Scientists’ Pesticide Study: https://www.bhopal.org/dow-chemical-asks-us-government-agencies-to-ignore-us-government-scientists-pesticide-study/
5: USA Today, Feb 17, 2017. Corporations gave millions to Donald Trump inauguration: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/17/corporations-gave-millions-donald-trump-inauguration/98056554/
6: thehill.com ‘Who’s Lobbying Big’: http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/business-a-lobbying/318177-lobbyings-top-50-whos-spending-big