Creating a Policy Infrastructure for Corporate Polluters
Acting on the perception that strong environmental regulations are detrimental to the competitiveness of US industry in the global economy, capital has unleashed a wide-ranging assault on the ecology and environmental justice movements.1 As part of a “new class war” against popular social movements, this political attack is being spearheaded by the most environmentally destructive sectors of American business. These corporate polluters and their financial supporters on Wall Street are pouring money into old and new anti-environmental organizations alike, as well as into the election campaigns of “pro-business” candidates in both major political parties. In fact, up until the election of Barack Obama as President in 2008, one could say that the executive branch of the federal government in the new millennium has largely been controlled by the polluter-industrial complex, or those sectors of business that would stand to profit most from a weakening of environmental protection. These sectors include chemical companies and agribusiness firms seeking to relax rules governing the use of pesticides; logging, oil, and mining companies wanting to open up protected wilderness areas to resource exploitation; and auto manufacturers and big utilities seeking exemptions from clean air regulations.
Over the last three decades, the political capacity of the polluter-industrial complex has grown through the expansion of a sophisticated national public policy infrastructure made up of think-tanks, research centers, policy institutes, foundations, academic institutions and training programs, media and judicial watchdogs, and public relations firms. This infrastructure works to reshape public opinion from the top down and provide policy recommendations and political strategies to government officials, recruit and train new leaders and intellectuals, and mobilize core constituencies to the cause. It also serves to apply sustained political pressure on the media, colleges and universities, the federal judiciary, foundations and state funding agencies, scientific organizations, and other social institutions.2 The interconnected organizations that make up this network are united in their demands for neo-liberal economic policies designed to deregulate and reprivatize the economy (“liberalize” or “free” the market of costly state regulation of industry) in the hope of boosting economic growth and profits. Walter Dean Burnham terms this political moment as the hegemony of market theology.3
In the United States, corporate-sponsored thinks tanks and policy institutes play a particularly important role in moving international, national, and state public policy priorities to the Right. In contrast to lobbying efforts by individual companies or specific trade associations, policy planning institutions serve as the place where various owners and CEOs of corporate America in general and the polluter-industrial complex in particular transcend their narrower interest-group approaches to develop a fuller conception of their overall class interests. Enlisting the services of academic advisers, conservative intellectuals, scientists and lawyers, and other “technical” experts, these think-tanks bring together the inner circles of the capitalist and managerial classes to serve as a leadership group (or power elite) on behalf of American capital. As a result, there are extensive interlocking members among the Boards, trustees, directors, and other key positions in large polluting corporations, think-tanks, foundations, research centers, policy planning groups, banks and financial institutions, and federal advisory committees.4 ExxonMobil, for instance, has numerous officials serving in this policy infrastructure.5 A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that between 1998 and 2005 ExxonMobil donated $16 million to a mixture of think-tanks and opinion-influencing organizations with the expressed goal (as stated in internal company memos) of casting doubt on the claims of the scientific community that fossil fuels cause global warming. Many of the organizations funded by ExxonMobil have overlapping boards of directors that are part of the corporate elite.6 In fact, well over 80 percent of the nearly 300 directors of business policy organizations and think-tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, Brookings Institute, the Business Roundtable, and the Hoover Institute are corporate leaders.7
The influence of these think-tanks is heightened by the fact that the Democratic and Republican Parties do not have their own policy research units. In contrast to much of Europe and other advanced industrial nations, where policy research and advocacy functions are undertaken by organized political parties, politicians in the United States are almost completely dependent upon the expertise provided by private policy institutions and networks. In addition, think-tanks serve as a “revolving door” for the power elite and polluter-industrial complex – providing the personnel for the rush of political appointments that come with each new administration, and also providing a refuge for discarded government officials.8 Policy institutes are a frequent meeting point for the power elite – a place where past, present, and future policy analysts, high-ranking government officials, business leaders and CEOs, intellectuals, journalists, and conservative activists come together to develop a political vision and strategy.9
Although there are a small number of liberal think-tanks in the United States, their influence has waned in recent years in comparison to corporate-supported neo-liberal institutions serving both the Democratic and Republican Party establishments. For instance, the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) has included Al Gore and co-founder Bill Clinton, and is at the center of a web of think-tanks, lobbying groups, and electoral activity designed to create a more business-friendly Democratic Party. The DLC-tied Progressive Policy Institute has become a prime proponent of the US Chamber of Commerce line on globalization and a cheerleader for the World Trade Organization (WTO) and efforts to discredit critics of corporate-designed trade liberalization.10 Think-tanks committed to neo-liberal economic policy and neo-conservative social policy have also proven instrumental to the rise of the New Right and Republican Party in recent years. This conservative policy infrastructure is firmly anchored in sectors of capital represented by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the US Chamber of Commerce, and many smaller and medium-sized corporations and family businesses. It is especially supported by those polluting corporations most deeply impacted by environmental regulations.
Think-Tanks and Policy Institutes against Progressive Environmentalism
The corporations that make up the polluter-industrial complex have used think-tanks to further their neo-liberal political agenda in a number of different ways. For instance, think-tanks serve as a repository for “experts” and dissident scientists to cast doubt on the existence and magnitude of various environmental problems, including global warming, chemical pollution and species extinction. These “greenwashing experts” produce a steady stream of books, reports, magazine articles, and newspaper editorials which argue that many ecological problems are not all that serious (or do not exist at all), and that if government would just get off the backs of industry and offer the proper incentives, the marketplace would solve the ecological problems that do exist.11 Self-described “experts” belonging to major think-tanks or policy centers regularly appear in the media to minimize concern for the ecological crisis.12 This strategy aims to weaken public pressure for governmental action to solve these environmental problems – potential action which might adversely affect corporate profits.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) illustrates this point. A think-tank established in 1984 by Fred Smith, Jr, an ex-EPA employee, CEI is devoted to advancing the principles of free enterprise and limited governmental regulation of industry. Much of CEI’s support comes from corporations opposed to the liberal regime of environmental regulation, including Dow Chemical, General Motors, Ford, Amoco, Coca-Cola Co, Pfizer Inc, Philip Morris, and Texaco Inc.13 Since its formation, CEI has carried on a relentless campaign attacking the science on global warming. In 2007, for instance, Christopher C. Horner, an attorney and fellow at CEI, published The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism,14 one of many in a long line of CEI publications denouncing environmentalists and the widely accepted science showing that human activities are causing global warming.15
Similarly, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is one of several other influential Washington right-wing think-tanks funded by ExxonMobil that have challenged the science around global warming, and whether governmental efforts to address climate change (if it did exist) would be effective. In the summer of 2006, AEI went so far as to offer $10,000 to any scientist who would oppose the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that says global warming is “unequivocal” and likely to have dire ecological impacts on the planet. Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice-President Dick Cheney and global warming skeptic, is an AEI fellow and sits on several corporate boards, including American Express.16 In fact, the Cheney family is deeply enmeshed in the polluter-industrial complex. Prior to becoming Vice-President, Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton Inc., a giant oil field services firm. As Halliburton’s CEO, Cheney earned $45 million in just five years, with at least another $18 million in stock options. One of the worst violators of environmental health in the United States, Halliburton was forced to settle 207,000 asbestos-related claims between 1976 and 2002 at a cost of $162 million. The cost of resolving future claims is expected to run to hundreds of millions of dollars. Asbestos fibers can lead to respiratory diseases and various types of cancer, including mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects the area around the lungs and abdomen.17
Dick Cheney was also a board member of Hunt Oil Company, Procter & Gamble, and TRW. Among the provisions in the Bush-Cheney 2004 energy bill was an environmental exemption for a method of gas drilling invented by Halliburton that prevents the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating it under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The exemption overturned a federal appeals court decision in Alabama that stated that hydraulic fracturing should be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. In hydraulic fracturing, chemicals, diesel fuel, hydrochloric acid and other agents are injected into the ground in order to more cheaply extract oil and gas. This process can also result in the contamination of drinking water. Halliburton is a major beneficiary of Cheney’s proposal, since about 5 percent of the company’s $12 billion total business is done by hydraulic fracturing.18
AEI is also one of the major think-tanks and research institutes funded by the polluter industrial complex that is leading the charge against the legitimacy of the environmental justice (EJ) movement. For example, David Friedman, writing for AEI, argues that despite “sensational charges of racial ‘genocide’ in industrial districts and ghastly ‘cancer alleys,’ health data doesn’t show minorities being poisoned by toxic sites,” and that environmental injustice is “an ‘outrage’ that doesn’t exist.” Instead, “the success of the environmental justice movement… shows just how much a handful of ideological, motivated [EPA] bureaucrats and their activist allies can achieve in contemporary America unfettered by fact, consequence, or accountability.”19 Likewise, Brookings Institute Fellow Christopher H. Foreman, Jr., states that though “activists have a hard time accepting it, racism simply doesn’t appear to be a significant factor in our national environmental decision-making.”20
These claims are refuted by numerous studies demonstrating that the American working class and especially poorer people of color face a “quadruple exposure effect” to environmental health hazards. This takes the form of (1) higher rates of “on the job” exposure to toxics used in the production process; (2) greater neighborhood exposure to toxic pollutants emitted from nearby factories, toxic waste dumps, agricultural fields, transportation systems, and hazardous waste facilities;21 (3) faulty cleanup efforts implemented by the government or the waste treatment industry, such as through the increased use of permanent or mobile incinerators that burn these wastes in the community. For instance, government penalties for violations of Superfund hazardous waste laws in communities of color average only one-sixth ($55,318) of what they do in predominantly white communities ($335,566).22 Cleanup injustices with respect to Superfund have worsened over the last ten years. A 2005 study finds that Superfund sites in low income and high minority areas now take significantly longer to be cleaned up than in the early 1990s.23 Finally, communities of color experience (4) greater exposure to toxic chemicals in the household (such as lead paint), in commercial foods, and in a variety of consumer products. Lead poisoning continues to be a leading health threat to children, particularly those living in older, dilapidated housing. Black children are now five times more likely than white children to have lead poisoning.24 Taken together, it is clear that poorer people of color experience a disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards where they “work, live, and play.”25
If efforts to downplay the existence or seriousness of particular environmental problems or EJ issues are unsuccessful, and government action appears inevitable, think-tanks and policy institutes associated with the polluter-industrial complex will work to weaken or scale back proposed regulations as much as possible. This is accomplished by arguing that the regulations are: (a) too expensive and/or too difficult to implement, and would damage the competitiveness of industry, and/or (b) too burdensome on consumers, workers, and/or the larger public, and could result in higher prices, taxes, or unemployment. In place of traditional “command and control” legislation associated with the liberal regime of environmental regulation, conservative think-tanks propose alternative neo-liberal approaches that utilize cost-benefit analyses and risk assessments in order to reduce the economic burden to industry; or seek to compensate polluting companies and property owners with taxpayer money for the costs of complying with the legislation.
Conservative think-thanks also promote free-market techniques such as tradable property and pollution rights, pricing mechanisms, tax incentives, and voluntary agreements for dealing with environmental degradation. They argue that there is little incentive to protect environmental resources that are not privately owned by corporate interests, neglecting the manner in which corporations maximize profits by cutting expenses related to environmental protection and restoration. Instead, conservative think-tanks propose the creation of property rights over parts of the environment that are currently free. These policy instruments, such as tradable pollution credits, for example, create the “right” for corporations to use environmental resources – or to pollute the environment – up to a pre-determined limit. Quantities of pollution below these pre-determined limits can be traded or sold to other corporations that exceed such limits. In theory, this approach provides incentives to capital to reduce pollution discharges beyond the levels allowed by law in order to sell their unused pollution credits to other corporations. Companies unwilling to reduce profits by making significant investments in pollution-abatement technology may instead exceed federal environmental standards by purchasing ‘excess’ pollution rights from another, less-polluting company.
Under the Clean Air Act of 1990, for instance, power plants are compelled to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions that cause acid rain and other major and related health problems. Co-sponsored by then-Senator Al Gore, the Act promotes the commodification of pollution (which can be bought and sold on the stock market), and allows enterprises such as the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to buy millions of dollars worth of pollution credits from Wisconsin Power and Light. These pollution credits allow the TVA to exceed federal limitations on sulfur dioxide (which causes acid rain) and other toxic emissions in older facilities, including facilities located in poor working class communities of color. Under this program, capital is granted flexibility to utilize the most cost-effective means for reducing (or maintaining) pollution levels.26
Pollution trading policies raise problems with respect to environmental justice, namely that those citizens living in close proximity to companies purchasing the “right” to release greater quantities of pollutants are having their health placed at a much higher risk than other citizens. Trading programs do not require capital to compensate residents living near the offending facilities for harms that are caused by the trades, or allow them to bargain with the trading partners to prevent the harm from being created in the first place. They also carry a substantial risk of creating toxic “hot spots” in poor communities of color and working-class neighborhoods.27 When several industrial facilities purchase pollution credits in one geographic area, and use these credits to maintain or increase releases of the most dangerous chemical pollutants, toxic hot spots are created.28 Older, heavily polluting industries may find it more cost-effective to continue polluting and to buy pollution rights than to retool production and install expensive technologies to reduce pollution. The communities surrounding those industries will thus be exposed to higher levels of pollution than other communities. Older and more hazardous industrial facilities most likely to purchase pollution credits (rather than reselling them) are often located in poorer communities, where there is less political pressure on firms to clean up their operations.
The Heritage Foundation is another policy institute that has exerted enormous political influence on behalf of “free-market environmentalism” and the polluter-industrial complex. Formed in 1973, Heritage drew early support from conservative beer magnate Joseph Coors and petroleum tycoon Edward Noble. Under President Ronald Reagan, an “unofficial” 1,093-page report completed by the Heritage Foundation entitled, Mandate for Leadership: Policy Management in a Conservative Administration, was adopted and widely used by the administration to weaken traditional environmental policy on behalf of industry.29 In fact, nearly two-thirds of the recommendations made by the report were adopted by the Reagan Administration after only two years.30 The Heritage Foundation has been at the center of the corporate attack on environmentalism ever since, singling out the environmental movement in its Policy Review magazine as “the greatest single threat to the American economy.”31 In 2002, the views of Heritage’s analysts and executives appeared on more than 600 national and international television broadcasts and 1,000 radio broadcasts, and in some 8,000 newspaper and magazine articles and editorials. Heritage also produced more than 230 research papers on a variety of issues, including environmental policy. Over a three-month period, Heritage staff also briefed three Cabinet secretaries, 164 senior administration officials, 33 senators and 48 House members.32
Conservative foundations like the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute promote government deregulation of industry, particularly in the area of environmental policy, as well as the sell-off of public lands to corporate interests. A common goal of free-market environmentalism and related-policy devices at Cato is the transfer of decision-making authority over environmental quality from the state to those private interests most able to pay, i.e., corporate America. Pollution rights and credit schemes result in pollution becoming a commodity that is bought and sold on the stock market or “traded” between companies. Clean air and water is no longer a fundamental human right. The Cato Institute receives most of its budget from private grants and gifts from foundations, individuals and corporations, including such organizations as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Petroleum Institute, ExxonMobil, the Ford Motor Company, Monsanto, and the Procter & Gamble Fund.33
The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations and Corporate Polluters
As seen in the case of the Cato Institute, the financial resources necessary to sustain the infrastructure of think-tanks, research centers, policy institutes, media and judicial watchdogs, and public relations (or educational) campaigns are largely provided by a network of private foundations linked to the polluter-industrial complex.34 These private foundations include over 2,000 corporate foundations, many of which are funded by large polluters. Corporate foundations distributed an estimated $3.4 billion to various causes in 2002 alone. However, independent grantmakers in the form of conservative family foundations (where the board is created and controlled by direct donors and family members) are even more significant to the New Right.35 These private family foundations, funded by family-owned companies, often play a pivotal role in financing the neo-liberal policy infrastructure.36 In their role as businessmen, many of these family members have a history of confrontation with environmental regulations. For instance, the Smith Richardson Foundation, administered by the son of the founder of the Vicks Chemical Company, is a key conservative grantmaker. So is the Olin Foundation (founded by Olin Chemical Company money) and the Scaife Foundation (whose fortune is derived from Gulf Oil).37
As outlined at the Philanthropy Roundtable’s 1995 annual conference by Richard Fink, president of the Charles G. Koch and Claude R. Lambe foundations, conservative foundations engage in a form of strategic philanthropy. Applying free-market metaphors to grantmaking, Fink noted that the translation of conservative ideas into political action requires “the development of intellectual raw materials, their conversion into specific policy products, and the marketing and distribution of these products to citizen-consumers.” Conservative grantmakers have followed this model by funding: (1) academic research centers and university intellectuals that develop neo-liberal arguments; (2) think-tanks and policy institutes that convert these ideas into concrete policy proposals; and (3) public relations campaigns, media organizations, and other organizations designed to educate the public and create pressure on governmental officials to adopt these policy proposals.38
The financial resources provided by these foundations are substantial. In fact, the top twenty think-tanks funded by conservative foundations spent over $1 billion on “ideas” over the course of the 1990s.39 These ideas included the rollback of environmental and consumer protection laws, as well as occupational health and safety regulations; the reduction of government spending on public education and other programs serving the poor and the middle class; huge tax cuts for the wealthy; and the privatization of public goods and services including Medicare and Social Security.40 Some 79 foundations awarded $254 million to 350 distinct conservative policy grantees between 1999 and 2001, including $3.25 million to organizations working exclusively for “free market” environmentalism. Most of the money, however, was funneled to the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, and other major multi-issue think-tanks. Moreover, the top five grantmaking institutions – Sarah Scaife; Lynde and Harry Bradley; John M. Olin; Shelby Cullom Davis; and Richard and Helen DeVos Foundations – accounted for just over 50 percent of total conservative public policy funding during this time frame”41
Foundations associated with Koch industries are also a major source of funding for the neo-liberal policy infrastructure. Three of the largest conservative foundations in the country – the Charles G. Koch Foundation, the David H. Koch Foundation, and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation – are endowed with money earned through the Koch family’s businesses. The three grantmakers combined to give more than $20 million to conservative policy organizations from 1999-2001, which would rank them third in total giving behind the Sarah Scaife Foundation ($44.8 million) and Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation ($38.9 million). David H. Koch also sits on the boards of the Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation, and is a co-founder and Chairman of Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). Each of these policy organizations seeks to limit government regulation of industry, particularly with respect to environmental policy. For instance, CSE subsidized the preparation of amicus briefs providing arguments to proclaim the Clean Air Act unconstitutional. Deeply embedded in the polluter-industrial complex, Koch industries is the nation’s second-largest privately owned company, and the largest privately owned energy/chemical company (Koch is also involved in ranching and a number of other financial ventures). In September 2000, the federal government indicted Koch Industries for concealing pollution at an industrial facility in Texas. The US Department of Justice charged the company with 97 counts of defying federal hazardous waste and clean air acts when it knowingly emitted benzene fumes into the environment (and then lied about its actions).42
Putting Pressure on the Courts to Rollback Environmental Policy
Along with Castle Rock, the John M. Olin Foundation, and other conservative grantmakers, the Koch family foundations are also major supporters of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE). Multinational corporations such as ExxonMobil, General Electric, General Motors, Merck, Shell, and Temple also provide substantial funding to FREE, which is an organization devoted to “educating” the judiciary as to the detrimental impacts of environmental law upon industry. FREE accomplishes this by providing publications, such as the Federal Judge’s Desk Reference on Environmental Economics, as well as all expenses-paid trips for federal judges to attend educational “seminars” at luxurious retreats. A report issued by the Community Rights Counsel (CRC) found that 137 federal judges reported 194 trips to FREE seminars over a six-year period during the 1990s (FREE claims that nearly one-third of the federal judiciary has either attended or requested enrollment in a FREE seminar). These seminars present a one-sided view on the so-called evils of current environmental legislation and regulations.43
FREE efforts to influence the judiciary produce results. In 1993, Circuit Judge Stephen Williams of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sided with the majority in a 2-to-1 vote in the case of Sweet Home v. Babbit, which upheld the government’s authority to prohibit modification of the environment that could harm an endangered species. Two weeks after the ruling, Williams attended a FREE seminar in Idaho. When he returned, the circuit panel reheard the case, and in 1994 Williams changed his vote and struck down the regulations.44 Similarly, Ed Warren, a lead attorney pressing a legal attack by industry against pending federal air-pollution regulations, had social contacts with two federal appellate judges at a guest ranch before they decided a 1999 case. The meetings came as part of a series of FREE expense-paid seminars for judges. The case – the American Trucking Association v. the Environmental Protection Agency – was one of the biggest environmental cases of the 1990s. The appeals court struck down new EPA regulations on soot and smog, claiming that Congress had never delegated the authority to the EPA (the US Supreme Court later rejected the lower court’s decision, upholding EPA’s right to tighten such regulations under the Clean Air Act). While the case was pending, US Circuit Judge Douglas Ginsburg and Judge David Sentelle attended the retreat seminars, including one given by Warren, a partner in the Chicago-based firm Kirkland and Ellis.45
FREE is part of a much larger effort by the polluter-industrial complex to move the judiciary to the Right on environmental policy. The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, an industry-funded public policy group, and the US Chamber of Commerce, for instance, have launched a propaganda campaign arguing that lawsuits by environmentalists are creating a de facto regulatory process. The purpose of the campaign is to create pressure for increased White House oversight over settlements resulting from lawsuits. The polluter-industrial complex is also aggressively pursuing an anti-tort agenda, often termed “tort reform.” Toxic torts provide remedies for personal injuries resulting from exposure to hazardous waste or products, as well as predatory business behavior. As stated by sociologists Thomas Koenig and Michael Rustad, “tort reform has become the rallying cry of powerful corporations who wish to shift costs back to the injured victim, the victim’s family and to the taxpayer.”46 Ever since serving as Governor of Texas, one of George W. Bush’s highest priorities was the enactment of tort “reforms” that undermined the ability of individuals to receive compensation for corporate wrongdoing.
The public relations infrastructure pushing for tort reform asserts that firms are being bankrupted by “frivolous” environmental lawsuits based on the logic of “phantom risk,” and/or that toxic injury lawsuits are often frivolous litigation based on “junk” science. Public relations and legalistic ploys of this sort displace public attention from the often devastating harm stemming from environmental abuses to the extremely difficult task of establishing a causal connection between an injury and a particular toxic exposure. As a result of pressure tactics such as these, the Courts are making it more difficult to introduce expert testimony on the causal connections between environmental abuses and public harm. As a result, the American legal system is placing an increasingly cruel and almost insurmountable burden on the small, individual plaintiff in toxic torts litigation. Judges should make the polluter to pay – not the injured victim, the community, and the taxpayer.47
The courts are important in other ways as well. Liberal judges often uphold the validity of existing environmental laws and regulations, and thwart the introduction of neo-liberal policy initiatives. The corporate colonization of the judiciary, including the appointment of more conservative judges, is therefore essential to the push for “free-market” environmentalism. A recent report of federal rulings from 1991-2001 found that a group of highly ideological judges – most appointed by former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush – has disregarded norms of judicial conduct to shape a new judicial philosophy that threatens core environmental protections. The analysis, conducted by the Alliance for Justice, Community Rights Counsel, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), finds a decade-long pattern of judicial activism by judges ideologically opposed to environmental protection. According to the report, the judges in question have consistently ignored basic principles of judicial fairness to shut citizens out of the courthouse and create new rights for polluters.48
The appointment of judges sympathetic to the interests of the polluter-industrial complex includes the nation’s highest court. Over the past decade, the Supreme Court has sharply limited the intervention rights of citizens’ groups such as the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and the National Wildlife Federation to file suit to force corporations to obey, or the EPA to enforce, environmental standards.49 In 2003, for instance, Supreme Court Justice Roberts cast doubt on the constitutionality of sweeping federal environmental laws, and wrote that the Endangered Species Act cannot protect “a hapless toad that, for reasons of its own, lives its entire life in California” because the Constitution only allows the regulation of matters involving more than one state. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has also joined with some judges presiding in various lower federal courts to invoke more limited definitions of “standing” (or rights to sue) for citizen groups. On the other hand, Scalia has left more accessible rights to timber companies, mining conglomerates, and manufacturers to challenge environmental regulations. For instance, Scalia authored an opinion that the National Wildlife Federation, a group with a long-standing interest in protecting the environment, had no standing to intervene in filing litigation challenging the opening up of public lands to mining. In fact, a series of opinions written by Scalia has distinguished between the object of regulation (e.g., a corporate polluter) and the beneficiary (e.g., a citizen trying to stop pollution), and used this distinction to exclude environmental plaintiffs from court.50
That Antonin Scalia should side with corporate polluters is no surprise. In January of 2003, Scalia and Vice-President Cheney went on what became a controversial duck-hunting trip together in Louisiana. The trip took place just three weeks after the Supreme Court had agreed to take up the vice-president’s appeal of lawsuits over his handling of the administration’s secret energy task force. A lower court had ruled, over the vice-president’s objections, that Cheney was to turn over documents revealing who met with the task force. The task force created an energy policy blueprint that included significant rollbacks of federal environmental rules. The Sierra Club and Judicial Watch had contended that Cheney and his staff had violated the open-government measure known as the Federal Advisory Committee Act by meeting behind closed doors with outside lobbyists for the oil, gas, coal, and nuclear industries, including Enron chairman Kenneth Lay. On the duck-hunting trip, Cheney and Scalia were guests of Wallace Carline, the owner of Diamond Services Corporation, an oil services company. Scalia refused to recuse himself from hearing the case, or to opt out of the vacation with the vice-president.
The family connections of conservative Supreme Court justices to the Bush Administration is quite revealing of the political influence exerted by the policy infrastructure of the polluter-industrial complex. For instance, Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is Director of Executive Branch Relations at the Heritage Foundation, and was part of the foundation’s “Mandate for Leadership 2000″ program to help transition the Bush Administration after the 2000 election. Similarly, Eugene Scalia, the son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, is known as the “godfather of the anti-ergonomics movement” for his work as a lawyer and lobbyist with the National Coalition on Ergonomics, an industry-funded group devoted to repealing legislation designed to prevent repetitive motion injuries among workers. The coalition tries to cast doubt on the existing science which shows that repetitive motion is a serious and sometimes debilitating form of injury.51
Buying Elections: Supporting Candidates Opposed to Environmental Justice
In the United States, political candidates are largely responsive to the blocs of “investors” that support their campaigns. Large corporations, trade associations, and wealthy individuals constitute the most powerful set of investors, although unions are also a key source of financial support for liberal Democrats. Furthermore, it is extremely expensive to run for political office in the US, especially at the federal level. The 2004 election saw the cost of winning a House seat average more than a million dollars for the first time in history, while the price of a Senate victory was fifty percent higher than in 2002. And in 2008, Senator Barack Obama broke fundraising records by bringing in well over $630 million for his successful presidential campaign. In comparison, George W. Bush brought in $294 million in 2004.
The high costs of campaigning mean that gaining access to sufficient financial resources is often the determining factor in whether an individual can even consider running for office, let alone win an election. It also translates into political death for most progressive, third-party and independent candidates who cannot compete at the federal level against the iron triangle of the two-party system, self-funded campaigns by multi-millionaires, incumbent self-subsidies, and money provided by wealthy individuals and corporations. As stated by the noted environmental journalist Philip Shabecoff, “Money, more than issues, ideology, the personality or record of candidates and even party affiliation most often determines the victor in electoral campaigns. In a majority of elections, the winner is the candidate who outspends his or her opponent.”52 For instance, in the 2000 Senate races, only two seats were won by lower-spending candidates, and just three in 2002.53 Only in cases where there is deep disapproval of a particular candidate and/or political party is the capacity of such money to tip elections significantly reduced (as occurred in a number of congressional contests in 2008).
The soaring costs of elections magnify the political power of corporate capital over that of progressive social movements and popular citizen campaigns that (with the exception of labor) lack similar financial resources. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the top 100 “organizational” donors provided just over $1 billion to federal candidates and the national political parties from 1989 to 2002. At least 132 candidates received a combined total of $1 million each from this list of contributors. Among these top donors, fifty-one were corporations or business-related political action committees (PACs) or trade associations, including tobacco companies such as Philip Morris and energy giants such as ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil.54 The biggest corporate contributors to elections are those dependent upon government contracts (such as defense industries) or those who want to protect profits by minimizing the impacts of costly government regulations. For instance, the top industry contributors to members of the 109th Congress during the 2005-06 election cycle were companies associated with the polluter-industrial complex – including electric utilities, oil and gas companies, airline and automobile industries, crop production and chemical manufacturers – that collectively provided around $41.5 million.55
To combat the rise of the environmental and EJ movements, individual owners and company executives, PACs, and corporations affiliated with the polluter-industrial complex channel their enormous resources into the campaigns of favored candidates. Since 2000, PACs have consistently provided around 40 percent of the total contributions in the House of Representatives, and just under a quarter of total campaign funds in the Senate.56 However, there is practically no money behind the environmental and EJ movements when it comes to counteracting the financial power of the “polluter PACs.” Environmentally-oriented PACs spent just a little over $2 million between 2000 and 2006 – an average of only $333,400 a year. In contrast, the polluter-industrial complex has donated at least $49 million in each election cycle since 2000, with 70 percent of that money going to Republican candidates.57
A recent US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund report exposes the true extent of the assault on public health and environmental protection by the polluter-industrial complex. All of the 18 trade associations analyzed in the report are core organizational components of the polluter-industrial complex, and include the National Association of Manufacturers, US Chamber of Commerce, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, American Chemistry Council, American Forest and Paper Association, National Mining Association, and the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association. Each trade association actively supports the rollback of one or more key air quality regulations. To achieve this goal, the associations and select member companies made $53 million in PAC contributions to federal candidates in the three election cycles between 1997 and 2002. The largest campaign contributors were also among the country’s worst polluters.58
A top recipient of these campaign funds in the House is Representative John Dingell, the highest ranking Democrat and current chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. This committee is responsible for energy and environmental policy. Dingell is a long-time champion of the automobile industry who has vehemently opposed higher fuel standards and other pollution/safety controls on industry. The Michigan Democrat is also an outspoken opponent of the new House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming created by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2007.59 Pelosi initiated the new committee in order to circumvent the power of Dingell and a committee “captured” by the polluter-industrial complex to thwart the regulatory progress. Interestingly, John Dingell’s wife, Deborah, is a top lobbyist for General Motors. The new committee is expected to push for tougher regulations on auto emissions, higher fuel economy standards, mandatory emission caps on US industry, and new approaches to slowing the pace of global warming. In a concession to the power of the polluter-industrial complex, however, the new committee will not have the power to draft legislation, which means that all of the panel’s recommendations must work their way through other committees (including Dingell’s) before they can reach the House floor.60
Another top recipient of these campaign funds is Senator James M. Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican. Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Inhofe received the second largest amount of money of any Senate member in 2002. Re-elected to the Senate in 2008, Inhofe is a staunch anti-environmentalist who recently dismissed global warming as “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” Inhofe has attempted to use his power as committee chair to discredit and intimidate scientists and environmental officials. On January 26, 2005, John Paul testified before the committee on behalf of the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators, representing 48 state air pollution-control agencies, as well as the Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials, which represents about 165 local agencies. Paul’s testimony was critical of a Bush Administration initiative (inappropriately termed “Clear Skies”) that would significantly compromise EPA’s ability to regulate air pollution from power plants. Paul stated that the proposal “fails on every one of our associations’ core principles,” was “far too lenient” on polluters, and would undermine “states’ abilities to protect air quality.” Inhofe retaliated against Paul for his testimony by taking the unprecedented step of demanding the financial statements, membership lists, and tax returns of both groups for the previous six years.61
As demonstrated above, campaign funds from the polluter-industrial complex are distributed strategically, targeting industry enemies for defeat and allies for victory (especially those sitting on key regulatory committees).62 While corporate polluters will support neo-liberals in Congress from both political parties, the Republican Party is clearly favored as being more “pro-business” and “anti-environmental regulation.”63 It is not surprising then that the Republicans selected oil company executives to fill out the Bush Cabinet. Prior to her selection as National Security Adviser and then Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice served on Chevron’s Board, and was a policy expert on securing oil from the Caspian Sea region. For her service to the company, a 130,000-ton oil tanker was named the Condoleezza Rice.64 Rice’s financial assets at the time of her appointment included $240,000 in Chevron stock. Kathleen B. Cooper, Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs, was formerly the chief economist and manager of the economic and energy division of ExxonMobil, while Nicholas Calio, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, was a former lobbyist for Arco, an oil company that recently merged with BP. Patrick H. Wood III served as Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and worked for Arco Indonesia until 1995.65 The drive to weaken environmental safeguards under the Bush administration became so pervasive, concludes an association of Public Research Interest Groups, “that it can only be accounted for by a conscious administration-wide intent to enrich corporations at the expense of ordinary citizens and the environment.”66 In short, the Bush Administration was devoted to weakening environmental laws to reward those industries that paid to put it in office.67
Appointing Corporate Polluters to Administer Environmental Agencies
The neo-liberal assault upon environmental regulation is predicated on the ability of the capitalist class to gain positional control of the state, especially to the degree that the power elite associated with polluting industries gain decision-making authority over key environmental agencies and offices. The polluter-industrial complex has established such control not only by supporting “business-friendly” political candidates, but also by insuring that politicians, once elected, select industry-related “political appointees” to run government agencies. Out of 1.8 million federal employees, there are some 3,000 political appointees running the federal bureaucracy.68 These appointees include not only the owners and CEOs of environmentally-destructive corporations and financial institutions, but also those lawyers, lobbyists, policy analysts, academics, and other officials working on behalf of these same companies.69 Colonization of these “independent” administrative and regulatory agencies is especially important as these institutions are capable of exerting broad authority in the drafting, implementation, and enforcement of pre-existing and/or new environmental policy initiatives. It is also the most “fail-safe” manner of colonizing the state. As stated by the late journalist Molly Ivins, “Why hire lobbyists when your CEOs and board members are running the show?”70
Corporate control over the executive branch is especially important since the President is responsible for selecting government appointees (including federal judges). At the time of this writing, it is too early to assess such appointments with respect to the Obama administration. However, it is clear that perhaps no other President in recent history owed as much of his political success to the financial support provided by the polluter-industrial complex as George W. Bush. In exchange for such support, the Bush Administration filled key behind-the-scenes jobs with lawyers and lobbyists plucked from the industries they regulated.71 In July of 2001, for instance, the administration selected Stephen Griles to serve as Deputy Interior Secretary. Prior to joining Interior as second-in-command, Griles was a coal company executive and lobbyist for mining and energy interests. Despite an obvious conflict of interest, Deputy Secretary Griles continued to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in “compensation” from National Environmental Strategies, his former lobbying firm that represents mining interests. As the point man for the industry, Griles spearheaded the effort to weaken environmental enforcement at Interior. After leaving the office in January 2005, he returned to work as an oil and gas lobbyist.
The Bush Administration also appointed Gale Norton to serve as Secretary of the Interior. Norton’s career started in 1979 when she was hired by the Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), an anti-environmental group funded by oil, gas, coal, and utility companies with major holdings in the west and leases on federal resources.72 In 1983, Norton transferred to the Hoover Institution, a right-wing policy center at Stanford University, where she advocated for market-based approaches to controlling air pollution. She also served on the advisory boards of two other right-wing organizations pushing for a rollback of federal environmental laws – the Defenders of Property Rights and the Washington Legal Foundation. After serving as Colorado Attorney General (1991-98), Norton founded a national group called the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA), an organization designed to enhance the public image of Republicans with bad environmental voting records. The formation of CREA undercut Republicans for Environmental Protection, which was considered by ultra-conservatives among the power elite to be too accommodating of environmentalism. As chair of CREA, she lobbied for a weakening of national environmental laws. The Coalition was funded by such corporate entities as the American Forest Paper Association, Amoco, Arco, Ford, and the Chemical Manufacturers Association.73
In 1999, Norton went to work for Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber & Strickland, a Denver-based law firm representing a range of anti-environmental clients, including the pro-business Colorado Civil Justice League, which seeks to protect builders of defective houses from homeowner lawsuits. The law firm was also listed with the US Congress as a lobbyist for NL. Formerly known as National Lead, NL is named as a defendant in suits involving several dozen toxic waste sites. NL is being sued by parents of lead-poisoned children in Cleveland, New Orleans, New York, and other cities. As a lobbyist with the firm, Norton worked to “immunize” NL industries around lead paint issues. Lead exposure is one of the most significant environmental justice issues in the nation.74 In 2001, Norton’s law firm lobbied in Washington for 45 other clients, including a number of oil and chemical companies involved in direct dealings with the Interior Department.75 Norton also helped Alaska challenge an Interior Department fisheries law, publicly declared the Endangered Species Act to be unconstitutional, wrote legal opinions against the National Environmental Policy Act, and argued (unsuccessfully) that the Surface Mining Control Law (SMCRA) – a piece of legislation protecting communities from the hazards of coal mining – was unconstitutional.
Norton was sworn in as Interior Secretary on January 2001, and resigned on March 16, 2006.76 Her time at Interior was marked by constant controversy, given her brazen attempts to benefit industry at the expense of the environment. Norton even went so far as to post a propaganda piece developed by Arctic Power, a group that lobbies for oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge, on the agency’s website and distribute it to network television anchors.77 Only a few months after her resignation, Norton accepted an offer to serve as counsel for Royal Dutch Shell’s unconventional resources division (unconventional resources pertains to emerging technology that targets such resources as oil shale and extra heavy oil). The Colorado plateau – much of it on land administered by Interior – contains one of the world’s largest deposits of oil shale. During Norton’s tenure at Interior, permit-granting criteria for oil and gas exploration were eased, allowing the Bureau of Land Management to speed up the leasing process for natural gas extraction in controversial areas like the Jonah Field and Pinedale Anticline in the Upper Green River Basin of Wyoming. Despite record profits for the oil companies, Interior also waived royalty payments assessed against private oil companies for two years running pertaining to oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico, where Shell is a major player. The Government Accountability Office reported that lost royalties amounted to $10 billion for American taxpayers.78 In recent years, Shell has amassed record profits – $22.9 billion in 2005 alone – yet has drawn condemnation from poor communities of color for refusing to address the myriad social and environmental problems created by its operations.79
Beyond the selection of more highly visible figures to serve as agency heads, anti-environmentalists are also appointed to key “under-the-radar” positions within the federal bureaucracy.80 These appointees are often tied directly to major campaign contributors from polluting industries, and can have a profound impact on the day-to-day operations of regulatory agencies.81 As such, they owe their careers as corporate executives, lawyers and lobbyists to the same polluter-industrial complex that they are now charged with regulating. As second-tier appointees working in the lower rungs of power as deputy secretaries and assistant administrators, however, they often have a deeper understanding of which rules and regulations need to be weakened or eliminated. This is because they have been fighting these same rules on behalf of industry for many years.82 A 2004 study by the Center for American Progress and OMB Watch found that “executives from a wide spectrum of industries and trade associations” held “powerful, policy-setting positions throughout the Bush Administration” – positions they quickly turned to the benefit of the industries and corporations they previously managed.” The result? Relaxed enforcement of regulations; greatly increased government secrecy, including a clamp-down on granting public and Congressional requests for information; and the suppression and distortion of scientific information whenever it appeared at odds with the administration’s goals.83
Jeffrey Holmstead was such a lower-level appointee. Before becoming the EPA’s Assistant Administrator of Air and Radiation under President George W. Bush, Holmstead worked for Lathan & Watkins, a Washington corporate law firm specializing in representing environmental polluters. His clients included Sempra Energy and Clean Air Future, an industry group pushing to weaken clean air laws. As a government official, Holmstead worked to weaken EPA rules and enforcement to the benefit of business. He even gave false testimony to Congress about the EPA’s assessment on how new air pollution rules adopted by the administration would hamper government lawsuits against corporate polluters. The companies targeted under the old rules were the same polluters his firm used to represent.84
The prevalence of Monsanto officials in the federal government is symptomatic of the manner in which the polluter-industrial complex colonized the bureaucracy under George W. Bush. For instance, Linda Fisher, Deputy Administrator of the EPA, was Monsanto’s Vice President for Government and Public Affairs in the late 1990s, and managed the company’s PAC and political contribution funds. Larry Thompson, the Deputy Attorney General, had previously served as Monsanto’s in-house counsel. Ann M. Veneman served as Secretary of Agriculture, and was formerly a lawyer with a firm specializing in representing agribusiness giants and biotech corporations. She was also on the Board of Directors of Calgene Inc., a subsidiary of Monsanto, a maker of PCBs (one of the most damaging chemical pollutants ever created), bovine growth hormone, terminator seeds (which prevent farmers from growing their own seed stocks), and questionable genetically-altered food products. The Secretary further participated in the International Policy Council of Agriculture, Food and Trade, funded by Monsanto, Cargill, Archer-Daniels Midland, Kraft, and Nestle (Perrier). Even Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was a former lawyer for Monsanto Corporation.
Lobbying Against the Environment: The Special Interest Process for Corporate Polluters
The polluter-industrial complex constitutes a bloc of pragmatically bipartisan investors in the American political system. As we have just seen, an interlocking system of think-tanks, policy institutes, and research centers is working to implement neo-liberal economic policies which are largely supportive of the general interests of the corporations that make up the polluter-industrial complex. In contrast, the special-interest process involves the actions of formal lobbying organizations of individual companies, wealthy families, specific industries, and trade associations within the polluter-industrial complex. These lobbying organizations strive to obtain government contracts and subsidies, secure tax breaks, thwart the actions of regulatory agencies that are viewed as costly or a threat to private control over investment decisions, funnel self-serving advice and information to state officials, and secure favorable legislation for a particular company or industry.85 The sum of these lobbying actions constitutes another channel through which the polluter-industrial complex colonizes the state.
Political lobbying by big business is now a big business in and of itself. Some 90,000 people are currently engaged in or supporting lobbying activities in Washington, D.C. alone. The amount of lobbying money spent to influence federal lawmakers since 1998 is double the amount of money spent to elect them, and continues to skyrocket.86 Lobbying expenses by corporations, trade associations, and other “interest” groups rose to a record $2.4 billion in 2005, some 14 percent higher than the $2.1 billion spent in 2004 (and 50 percent higher than the $1.6 billion spent in 2000). Corporations affiliated with the polluter- industrial complex are among the biggest spenders. In the last half of 2005, over $200 million a month was spent on lobbying, including a total of $92.5 million by industries involved in energy and natural resources. The transportation industries also spent $90.6 million.87
The quantities of money spent on an army of well-paid lobbyists by the polluter-industrial complex obviously dwarfs the financial resources of environmentalists and the EJ movement. It also tends to cast a shadow on other sectors of capital. In 2002, for instance, some 98 trade associations and member companies spent more than $173 million on in-house lobbyists. More than $96 million of this total came from associations and companies in the electric utility and oil and gas sectors alone.88 In fact, the five largest oil companies spent well over $175 million on lobbying activities from 1998-2004, just behind the US Chamber of Commerce at $204.6 million. During this time frame, huge sums of money were also spent by other sectors of the polluter-industrial complex, including auto manufacturers such as General Motors ($48.2 million) and Ford ($41.35 million); aerospace and technology companies such as General Electric ($94.1 million) and Northrop Grumman ($83.4 million); timber interests such as the American Forest & Paper Association ($20.5 million) and International Paper ($18.97 million); chemical companies and trade associations such as the American Chemistry Council ($27 million), Monsanto ($22.5 million), Johnson & Johnson ($21.76 million), and the Asbestos Study Group ($21.9 million), as well as the National Association of Manufacturers ($29.56 million).
The Energy Lobby and Environmental Injustice
The infusion of such enormous sums into the lobbying process buys corporate polluters disproportionate access to governmental officials, and exerts a corrosive effect on American democracy. Industry lobbyists are now integrated so extensively into the environmental agency rulemaking and legislative processes that their recommendations are frequently adopted with little modification. In some cases, corporate lobbyists are the ones actually writing the new rules and regulations word-for-word.
The Bush Administration’s Department of Energy transition team provides a good example. A precursor to Vice-President Cheney’s secretive Energy Task Force developed the blueprint for the energy package that was sent to Congress in 2003. That energy bill became a cash bonanza for corporate interests in and out of the energy arena. Companies and trade associations with a stated interest in energy policy spent a whopping $387.8 million lobbying Washington in 2003 alone. The money was well spent. These corporations were eventually rewarded in the bill with billions of dollars in tax breaks, massive government contracts and subsidies, and significant rollbacks in government regulation. For instance, the nuclear industry spent some $71.4 million on lobbying Capitol Hill, but received $7.37 billion in tax breaks and project monies, including federal funds to construct a $1 billion nuclear plant in Idaho. Massey Energy of West Virginia – whose director, James H. ‘Buck’ Harless, was a major Bush fund-raiser – also received hundreds of millions of dollars in loan guarantees for a coal gasification plant. Harless served on the Energy Department’s transition team.89
Corporate lobbyists were also successful in having additional “gifts” to industry included by the various House and Senate committees that were given the task of “drafting” the bill once they received the recommendations of the Cheney task force. Such gifts included exemptions for oil and gas companies from sections of the Clean Water Act. Utility lobbyists such as those at the Edison Electric Institute, which spent $12.54 million on a team of thirty-five lobbyists at its own shop and at twelve other firms to lobby Congress, the White House, and federal agencies around the energy bill, were also successful in weakening the standards for mercury pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants.90
In the summer of 2005, President Bush signed into law the new energy bill. By that time, lobbyists had included such massive subsidies for the oil industry that the legislation had become a public embarrassment, and sparked outrage among environmentalists, public interest organizations, and the general population. Despite obscene profits for the oil giants – ExxonMobil, for instance, brought in $24 billion in profits in 2004, and a record-breaking $15 billion in the first half of 2005 – the energy bill allocated at least $4 billion in subsidies and tax breaks for the oil industry. Furthermore, as documented by the report Exxpose Exxon “the new energy law exempts “the oil industry from several environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, allowing even the most profitable companies to pollute our waterways and drinking water.” The law also suspends the payment of royalties for publicly-owned oil and gas from offshore leases in the deeper waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and allows the oil industry to forgo royalty payments to the federal treasury for oil drilled in areas of Alaska’s coastline.91
The Bush-Cheney energy bill is illustrative of the manner in which corporate lobbyists, elected officials, and appointed heads of government agencies are now working together in such a symbiotic fashion to rollback the nation’s environmental laws that is often difficult to tell them apart. In early January of 2004, for instance, Bush Administration officials and members of Congress hosted dozens of industry leaders at a Phoenix golf resort to discuss the rewriting of environmental legislation and federal energy policy. Corporate leaders paid $3,000 for the privilege of having a private dinner and golf game with fifteen Republican members of Congress, including Senator Pete Domenici, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The money was divided among the campaign committees of participating members of Congress. This event was part of the “Roundtable Summit of the West,” with members of the Western Business Roundtable and US Chamber of Commerce, which includes CEOs and leaders of the oil and gas, mining, coal and chemical industries. Industry officials also paid to attend sessions with members of Congress, Senate staffers and EPA officials on “How the West Should Prepare for the Upcoming Re-Write of the Clean Air Act” and “Building a Top Ten ‘To Do’ List for the Congress.” The keynote speaker was J. Steven Griles, then an acting Deputy Secretary of the Interior and a former coal industry lobbyist. No environmentalists were invited.
Griles is not the exception to the rule. More than 2,200 former federal employees registered as lobbyists between 1998 and 2004, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Many of these employees formerly worked at the EPA, but left to work for the polluter-industrial complex. In 2003, for instance, the Southern Co., which owns coal-fired power plants in the Southeast, hired John Pemberton, the chief of staff for the EPA office in charge of air pollution programs. Southern was one of the companies most active in lobbying the EPA to change the “new source review” provision of the Clean Air Act, which determines when a facility must install pollution control equipment. Pemberton was hired one week after the EPA announced it was easing an important air pollution control program beneficial to the company. The company was the subject of a pending EPA lawsuit over noncompliance with the rule (the EPA was suing Southern Co. for violations at eight of its plants).92
The free rein granted to these former lobbyists is crippling the ability of the EPA and Interior Department to safeguard the nation’s environment. In February of 2007, the US Interior Department’s Inspector General, Earl E. Devaney, testified before the House Natural Resources Committee that the department was plagued by problems that were “deep and wide,” including ineffective law enforcement, inadequate protection of some national parks’ resources, a failure to follow funding and procurement laws, and an unethically cozy relationship among senior officials and companies seeking government contracts. Furthermore, Devaney complained that officials at the US Interior Department received free golf outings, dinners, hunting trips, and box seats at sporting events from companies they monitored, but were rarely punished for the ethics violations. Devaney further testified that “throughout the department, the appearance of preferential treatment in awarding contracts and procurement has come to our attention far too frequently, and the failure of department officials to remain at arm’s length from prohibited sources is pervasive.”93
From 2003 to 2006, investigations by Interior’s Inspector General identified 71 employees whose actions triggered ethics probes. The vast majority of those penalized were low- to mid-ranking employees. On the other hand, of the 21 senior officials whose ethical behavior was reviewed, more than half were not disciplined by the administration. The remaining ones received a reprimand that often involved a two-hour course on ethics, a transfer, or the option to resign. Devaney’s office is also investigating the broader issue of whether the Interior Department has been properly collecting money from its oil and gas contracts with energy companies (the New York Times first reported the omission of royalty payments during the late 1990s). Robin M. Nazzaro, Director of the Government Accountability Office’s Natural Resources and Environment, told the same House panel that the royalty mismanagement could cost taxpayers as much as $10 billion for 576 active leases granted during 1998 and 1999 under the Clinton Administration. Nazzaro also identified the Interior Department’s inadequate land appraisals as also resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in revenue.94
“Toxic Sludge” Is Good for You: Ideological Control of State Officials
Perhaps the most important mechanism for exercising ideological control over state managers, as well as policy-makers, involves the production of scientific knowledge and information. Government agencies establish regulatory controls and standards for industry based upon scientific studies of the health dangers posed by various pollutants and toxic substances, as well as by conducting environmental impact reviews of business and state projects. Wresting control away from ecologically-minded “independent” scientists in favor of industry-sponsored researchers is key if government regulations are to be thwarted, weakened, or overturned. The corporate production of science is also key to the public relations campaigns waged by the polluter-industrial complex to convince the American people that environmental problems are imagined or overblown, or even that “toxic sludge is good for you.”95
Over the last three decades and more, the polluter-industrial complex has utilized a wide variety of tactics to obscure the dangerous effects of their products. These tactics include contracting outside scientists to conduct research designed to show that a particular production process or product is safe, or to organize groups of industry-friendly “third party” scientists in the form of scientific advisory boards (SABs). SABs work in coordination with neo-liberal policy institutes and think-tanks, industry “front groups,” corporate lobbyists, and the public relations firms to support industry assertions in the regulation-setting and policy-making processes, and in the courts, where they testify as expert witnesses in tort litigation lawsuits. SABs also launch attacks in the press on scientists and scientific work that claim environmental harm is resulting from corporate practices. The Public Relations firm Burson-Marsteller, for instance, has organized a number of phony grassroots (Astroturf) organizations to battle the genuine grassroots movements around a number of environmental issues.96 And Dow Chemical has contributed to the formation of ten “greenwash” front groups, including the Alliance to Keep Americans Working, the Alliance for Responsible CFC Policy, the American Council on Science and Health, Citizens for a Sound Economy, and the Council for Solid Waste Solutions.97
Astroturf front groups and closely-related policy institutes often rely on the work of “scientific” writers hostile to liberal environmental regulation and science – such as Elizabeth Whelan, Toxic Terror: The Truth Behind the Cancer Scare; Dixie Lee Ray, Environmental Overkill, Michael Fumento, Science Under Siege, and Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute, Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic. Whelan, for example, incorrectly argued that the EPA’s experts did not think Uniroyal Corporation’s pesticide Alar posed a threat to human health. In actuality, the EPA’s Carcinogen Assessment Group labeled Alar a “probable human carcinogen” – a judgment reiterated by the US National Toxicology Program. Whelan, who has received support from Monsanto, is what Consumer Reports labels a “public interest pretender” – one who publishes deceptive or misleading information around the true hazards posed by the polluter-industrial complex.98 The purpose of such disinformation is to produce enough “doubt” to thwart regulatory action by state officials and secure the least restrictive possible regulatory environment, as well as to avert legal liability for resulting deaths or injuries. SABs and corporate-sponsored “researchers” are often effective because they provide an appearance of “scientific legitimacy” in support of industry claims.
Manufacturing “Junk” Science in Support of the Polluter-Industrial Complex
As part of the liberal regime of environmental regulation, the polluter-industrial complex has been especially successful in creating a “risk paradigm” approach. The risk paradigm focuses on the regulation of individual pollutants at “acceptable levels” of public exposure utilizing a variety of scientific and engineering tools, including risk assessment, toxicological testing, epidemiological investigations, etc. This risk paradigm assumes that scientists can know “safe” exposure doses to toxins, and that public exposure rates can be controlled. Magnified by industry pressures to make speedy regulatory and policy decisions with inadequate information, however, a lack of data showing any ‘harmful’ impact is typically misconstrued by state officials as evidence of safety. Most chemicals are approved without any restrictions.99
In the United States, the lack of government health data on chemicals is startling. The vast majority of the 70,000 and more chemicals registered for use by industry have not undergone adequate long-term testing for their health and environmental impacts. A recent study by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) found that 75 percent of the high-profile, high-volume chemicals used by industry lack even the most minimal health testing information.100 The regulation of toxic substances is instead based on permitting the use and release of such substances in “amounts that the producers and users claim are essential for them” to be profitable. Only in a few nightmare cases, where the obvious health and environmental impacts of the substance in question have resulted in a large public outcry, have much stricter regulations or the banning of a specific chemical (such as DDT) actually occurred.101
Most toxicity testing and health research on chemicals is initially conducted by the manufacturer, and then submitted to the government. In addition, with deeper and deeper cuts in government research budgets, EPA and other agencies are increasingly forced to rely on regulated companies and industry-affiliated institutions to supply data, instead of their own scientists. The reports coming out of these industry investigations have a profound impact in shaping the “understanding” and behavior of government policy-makers and regulators, including EPA staff.102 However, as has been documented in recent years in countless investigations, corporations that make up the polluter-industrial complex have repeatedly withheld, falsified, or altered their own internal studies that show their products to be harmful. The suppression of such research includes the true health dangers posed by polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, lead, tobacco, silicon dust, asbestos, and many other substances. In fact, as in the case of lead and vinyl – two substances causing devastating health impacts among workers and EJ communities throughout the country – entire industries have banded together to deny and suppress information about the toxic nature of their products. The studies conducted by industry are clearly not reliable, yet the government continues to rely on these studies to the detriment of public health.103
Industry involvement in the production of research studies and government regulatory standards is pervasive, and includes the selection of questions to be explored in the research, funding the science, proposing favorable pollution control technologies and approaches, and reviewing draft regulations. Public involvement in establishing a new regulation is most often an afterthought by government officials. In November of 2004, for instance, the EPA announced that it would reclassify Captan – a chemical used in agricultural and household pesticides – from a probable carcinogen to a “not likely” carcinogen. This announcement came after Captan manufacturers declared the EPA’s original studies to be inadequate, paid a science-for-hire firm to generate new studies “proving” the assertion, and then had the new research “endorsed” by an industry-funded peer review panel stacked with industry officials. The EPA rubber stamped these findings, but gave the public only 60 days to comment on the new rules. This is not an isolated example of the EPA “outsourcing” the responsibility of testing pesticides to the industries themselves. Pesticide manufacturers held 50 private meetings with EPA officials while the agency was considering issuing drinking-water standards for the hormone-disrupting pesticide atrazine. Meanwhile, the EPA held just two meetings with environmental organizations. The industry’s investment paid off when the EPA refused to set a stronger standard.104
The polluter-industrial complex is also providing grant money or contracting university-based researchers and scientists to generate studies favorable to business. Over the past two decades, capital has dramatically expanded funding for university research, from $264 million in 1980 to $2 billion in 2001. Although corporate research money is often dedicated to product development, it is also channeled into producing studies with a political purpose: to legitimate industry practices and minimize government regulation.105 Hungry for the prestige and resources provided by corporate money, university researchers and institutions of higher learning are increasingly being coopted and sometimes corrupted by companies associated with the polluter-industrial complex.106 A recent study of corporate funding of academic research, for instance, revealed that “more than half of the university scientists who received gifts from drug or biotechnology companies admitted that the donor expected to exert influence over their work.”107
The corruptive impacts of the polluter-industrial complex extend to academic publications. In fact, the concern is so widespread that many scientific journals, including the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, now require that the source of support for the investigator’s research be clearly identified.108 For instance, an influential study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine exonerating hexavalent-chromium from causing high rates of cancer in five villages in northeastern China was retracted in 2006. The retraction occurred when the Wall Street Journal revealed that the article was actually conceived, drafted and edited by consultants for PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric), which was embroiled in toxic-tort litigation over hexavalent-chromium contamination in California. The PG&E consultants submitted the 1997 article for publication without disclosing their own or PG&E’s involvement.109 PG&E had a major stake in overturning the science on the harmful impacts of hexavalent-chromium (chromium-6, also known as hexavalent chromium or industrial chromium, is classified by the EPA as a known carcinogen). It was during the 1990s that law firm employee Erin Brockovich put together the cancer cluster stories from over 600 plaintiffs from Hinkley, California, in a successful multi-million dollar lawsuit against PG&E.110
The corrosive power of the polluter-industrial complex extends to the country’s most prestigious universities. Harvard University’s Center for Risk Analysis (HCRA) receives funding from the American Plastics Council, and recently created controversy around a limited review of nineteen scientific studies concerning bisphenol-A. An endocrine disrupting chemical, bisphenol-A (BPA) is the monomer used to manufacture polycarbonate plastic, the resin lining of cans, and other common products. BPA can leach and cause widespread human exposure. The Center’s review concluded that BPA does not cause harm at low doses. However, a 2005 study released in the science journal Environmental Health Perspectives disclosed that 94 of 115 published studies found harmful effects from low-dose exposure to BPA. In short, while 80 percent of government-funded studies report significant health effects, 100 percent of industry-funded studies report no significant adverse effects.111 Similarly, a 2006 study released in the science journal Environmental Research found 109 government-funded studies reporting harmful effects of low-dose exposure to BPA, while all 11 (100 percent) of industry-funded studies reported no significant adverse effects. The Director of the Harvard Center – John Graham – was selected by President George W. Bush to serve as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the White House Office of Management and Budget. His office regularly blocks newly proposed environmental, health and safety and other government regulations. In his government position, Graham initiated a series of sweeping reforms that tilted the entire standard-setting process to favor the polluter-industrial complex.
The polluter-industrial complex is also attempting to undermine the ability of independent and government-sponsored scientists and institutions to conduct research that may prove damaging to capital, including efforts to fire or blackball researchers.112 As reported in the Washington Post, the Bush Administration also initiated a “broad restructuring of the scientific advisory committees that guide federal policy” in order to serve the interests of capital. These largely anonymous committees of scientists, lawyers, and academics make recommendations vital to determining health and environmental risks.113 In 2002, for instance, the Department of Health and Human Services retired two expert committees before their work was completed, including one that recommended the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expand its regulation of the increasingly lucrative genetic testing industry (the other committee was rethinking federal protections for human research subjects). Yet another committee, which had been assessing the health impacts of low-level exposure to environmental chemicals, had fifteen of its seventeen members replaced by people with links to the industries that make those chemicals. One new member was a California toxicologist, Dennis Paustenbach, who helped defend PG&E Co., against Erin Brockovich in the Hinkley case. Others included Roger McClellan, former president of the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology, a North Carolina research firm supported by chemical company dues; Becky Norton Dunlop, a vice president of the conservative Heritage Foundation who, as Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources, fought against environmental regulation; and Lois Swirsky Gold, a University of California risk-assessment specialist who has made a career countering environmentalists’ claims of links between pollutants and cancer.114
The Scientific Backlash against the Bush Administration
In 2004, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a report, Scientific Integrity in Policymaking, signed by 62 of the nation’s preeminent scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, charging the Bush Administration with widespread manipulation of science and egregious conflicts of interest in policymaking. The UCS document analyzes the White House manipulation of science in areas such as climate change, mercury emissions, air pollution, breast cancer, endangered species, forest management, workplace safety, and childhood lead exposure.115 Instead of positioning the United States as a world leader in the international fight to curb global warming, the Bush Administration adopted a position of the Global Climate Coalition by repeatedly denying and then underplaying the problem. The Bush administration actively suppressed the science around global warming, and distorted the economic consequences of taking action.116 The Global Climate Coalition (GCC) is made up of dozens of US trade associations and private companies representing oil, gas, coal, automobile and chemical interests. The GCC resists international agreements (such as Kyoto) to reduce greenhouse emissions due to claims of scientific “uncertainty” and the potential economic harm such a treaty would cause to industry.117
Faithfully serving his coal, oil and auto industry constituencies, President Bush rejected the scientific consensus articulated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other studies showing that greenhouse gases are accumulating in the Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise.118 When the National Academy of Sciences came to Bush in 2001 with a report saying that global warming was real, serious and human-caused, he ignored it. When the EPA sent a 2002 report to the United Nations saying that global warming will result in “rising seas, melting ice caps and glaciers, ecological system disruption, floods, heat waves and more dangerous storms,” Bush rejected it as a document “put out by the bureaucracy.”119 The following year, the White House ordered the EPA to delete from its State of the Environment Report references showing that global temperatures have risen sharply, and that such warming is at least partially caused by industrial emissions.”120
Philip Cooney was one of those charged by a whistleblower with changing the language in several 2002 and 2003 government reports, including the Strategic Plan for the United States Climate Change Science Program. Before joining the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) as chief of staff, Cooney was a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute (API). The API is the largest trade association affiliated with the oil and gas industry, a member of the Global Climate Coalition, and a key player in the fight against the regulation of greenhouse gases. Cooney and the White House edited the section on global warming in the EPA State of the Environment Report by replacing data showing increases in greenhouse gas emissions in the late 1990s with references to a different report funded by API, among others.121 Trained as a lawyer, and not a scientist, Cooney was accused by Rick Piltz, a Senior Associate of the US Climate Change Science Policy Office and former Associate Director of the US Global Change Research Program, of altering the reports. Piltz resigned from the Climate Change Science Program in protest of the politicization of his science program.122
Besides watering down research documents and stacking scientific advisory panels with ideological allies, the polluter-industrial complex has applied direct political pressure on the Bush Administration to terminate government scientists. One of those targeted early on was the world renowned climatologist Dr. Robert Watson, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). A joint project of the United Nations and the World Meteorological Association, the IPCC is made up of 2,500 researchers and other climate experts, and has led international efforts to assess the science behind global climate change. Under Watson’s tenure, the IPCC produced its third comprehensive assessment of the state of climate science in 2001, concluding that, “there is new and stronger evidence that most the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities,” especially the burning of fossil fuels. Among those calling for Watson’s replacement was ExxonMobil, which sent the Bush Administration a confidential memo to this effect in the Spring of 2002. Lobbyists for the coal industry, electric utilities, and automakers joined in the request (the energy industry had been quietly pressing for the removal of Watson from the helm of the IPCC since the Bush Administration took office in January 2001). ExxonMobil’s efforts were rewarded when Watson was replaced on April 19, 2002 by Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, an official with two PhDs in economics and industrial engineering but none in atmospheric science.
Reclaiming the State
As we have seen, in order to weaken environmental regulation, the polluter-industrial complex engages in a series of maneuvers designed to colonize and restructure the state in its favor. These processes include efforts to: (1) support business-friendly candidates for political office; (2) pressure politicians to appoint industry-friendly officials to administer key government agencies, including those relating to environmental protection; (3) create a sophisticated policy-making infrastructure favorable to environmentally-destructive companies that can be utilized by both major political parties to rollback ecological protection; (4) increase the influence of corporate lobbyists beholden to the polluter-industrial complex; and (5) undermine (if not corrupt) independent scientific investigation of environmental problems. Together, these processes constitute a series of mechanisms that establish and maintain domination of the state by capital, particularly that associated with ecologically destructive corporations. The political hegemony of the polluter-industrial complex over the past eight years has steadily eroded environmental justice in the United States.123
Whether the administration of Barack Obama can successfully step outside the power of the polluter-industrial complex to initiate a greener path into the future remains to be seen. Otherwise, capital’s assault on the gains won by environmentalists, civil rights activists, feminists, trade unionists, EJ activists, and other progressive social movements will continue. Despite capture of Congress and the White House by the Democratic Party, the polluter-industrial complex continues to wield enormous power over the state apparatus. Moreover, the various progressive movements remain locked into “policy silos” that are narrowly focused on single issues. As a result, these movements have been largely ineffective at formulating a broader political vision which could build common ground between working- and middle-class whites and people of color. Lacking “universalistic” demands pertaining to rights of citizenship and popular class interests, the movements are more easily splintered by the “divide and rule” tactics of corporate centrists and ultra-conservatives within the power elite. The new Democratic Party led by Barack Obama will not in-and-of-itself dismantle the sophisticated political infrastructure administered by the polluter-industrial complex from behind the scenes. To chart a new course will ultimately require the formation of a transformative environmental politics built around the principles of democratic socialism, clean production, environmental justice, the precautionary principle, renewable energy, and a decarbonization of the US economy. This is a historic task confronting eco-socialists in the new millennium.
1. Daniel Fireside, Toussaint Losier, Adria Scharf, Thad Williamson, and the Dollars and Sense Collective, eds., The Environment in Crisis, 3rd Edition (Boston: Dollars and Sense, 2006).
2. Sally Covington, “Moving Public Policy to the Right: The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations,” in Foundations for Social Change: Critical Perspectives on Philanthropy and Popular Movements, eds., Daniel R. Faber and Deborah McCarthy (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), 89-114.
3. Walter Dean Burnham, “The 1996 Elections: Drift or Mandate?” The American Prospect 27 (July-August, 1996): 43-49.
4 . Gwen Moore, Sarah Sobieraj, J. Allen Whit, Olga Mayorova, and Daniel Beaulieu, “Elite Interlocks in Three US Sectors: Nonprofit, Corporate, and Government,” Social Science Quarterly 83 (2002): 726-744.
5 . Greenpeace has developed an interactive tool for researching these interlocking directors that are related to ExxonMobil and the polluter-industrial complex policy infrastructure. See the Exxonsecrets.org: How ExxonMobil Funds the Climate Change Skeptics website at http://www.exxonsecrets.org/ (May 4, 2007).
6 . Seth Shulman, with Kate Abend and Alden Meyer, Smoke, Mirrors, & Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Science (Cambridge, MA: Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007).
7 . J. Craig Jenkins and Craig M. Eckert, “The Right Turn in Economic Policy: Business Elites and the New Conservative Economics,” Sociological Forum 15 (2000): 307-338.
8 . Sharon Beder, Global Spin: The Corporate Assault on Environmentalism (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 1997), 83-84.
9 . Covington, “Moving Public Policy to the Right” (note 2), 105-107.
10 . John Nichols, “Behind the DLC Takeover,” Progressive 64, no.10 (October 2000): 28-30.
11. This view is given a mantle of respectability through a number of pseudo-scientific studies carried out by corporate-supported organizations, policy institutes, and writers. See for example Ronald Bailey, Ecoscam: The False Prophets of Ecological Apocalypse (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993), and Gregg Easterbrook, A Moment On The Earth (New York: Viking Press, 1995).
12. See Jed Greer and Kenny Bruno, Greenwash: The Reality behind Corporate Environmentalism (New York: Apex Press, 1996).
13. Beder, Global Spin, 91.
14. Christopher C. Horner, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2007).
15. Another influential CEI publication, The True State of the Planet, put forth a major challenge to the environmental movement, and downplays the significance of global climate change.
16. Lynne Cheney also served on the board of directors of Lockheed Martin – the nation’s largest defense contractor – from 1994 until January 2001, accumulating more than $500,000 in deferred director’s fees from the company. Dick Cheney was a former Secretary of Defense in the George H.W. Bush Administration. Under the law in 2001, public officials and key government-paid advisers are required to report the value of their assets, income, and debts only within broad ranges.
17. Halliburton has been implicated in a number of scandals and fraud cases, including claims that the company overcharged the US government $61 million for delivering gasoline to Iraqi citizens under a no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq’s oil industry in 2003, prompting President Bush to state that the money should be repaid if the charges proved true. By 2003, Halliburton had been paid about $3 billion for providing support services to the US military in Iraq. See Matt Kelly, “Halliburton should repay overcharges on gas, Bush says,” Boston Globe (December 13, 2003), A11.
18. “Bush-Cheney Energy Bill Includes Gift to Halliburton,” BushGreenwatch (January 9, 2004), 1-3.
19. David Friedman, “The ‘Environmental Racism’ Hoax,” The American Enterprise 9, no.6 (November-December 1989): 75-78.
20. Christopher H. Foreman, Jr., The Promise and Peril of Environmental Justice (Washington, DC: Brookings Institute, 1998).
21. Rachel Morello-Frosch, “Environmental Justice and California’s ‘Riskcape’: The Distribution of Air Toxics and Associated Cancer and Non-Cancer Health Risks Among Diverse Community,” Ph.D. dissertation (School of Public Health, Environmental Health Sciences Division, University of California at Berkeley, 1997).
22. Superfund toxic waste sites in communities of color are likely to be cleaned 12 to 42 percent later than sites in white communities. Furthermore, it takes an average of 20 percent longer in minority communities than in white areas for the government to place toxic waste dumps on the National Priorities List (NPL, or Superfund list) for cleanup. See Marianne Lavelle and Marcia Coyle, “Unequal Protection: The Racial Divide in Environmental Law,” National Law Journal (September 21, 1992), 2-12.
23. Sandra George O’Neil, “Environmental Justice in the Superfund Clean-Up Process,” Ph.D. Dissertation (Boston College, Department of Sociology, 2005).
24. Peter Montague, “Pediatricians Urge a Precautionary Approach to Toxic Lead,” Rachel’s Democracy and Health News 827 (September 29, 2005), 1-2; cited in Benjamin Goldman and Laura Fitton, Toxic Waste and Race Revisited: An Update of the 1987 Report on the Racial and Socioeconomic Characteristics of Communities with Hazardous Waste Sites (New York: United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, 1994).
25. Daniel Faber, Capitalizing on Environmental Injustice: The Polluter-Industrial Complex in the Age of Globalization (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).
26. See Stephen M. Johnson, “Economics v. Equity: Do Market-Based Environmental Reforms Exacerbate Environmental Injustice?” Washington and Lee Law Review 56 (Winter 1999): 1-24, draft available on-line at
www.merlin.law.mercer.edu/elaw/economic.htm (accessed 6/22/2006); and Stephen M. Johnson, Economics, Equity, and the Environment (Washington, DC: Environmental Law Institute, 2004), 2-4.
27. Environmental Law Institute Research Report, Opportunities for Advancing Environmental Justice: An Analysis of US EPA Statutory Authorities (November 2001).
28. See PEER, Trading Thin Air: EPA’s Plan to Allow Open Market Trading of Air Pollution Credits, a white paper report by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Washington, DC: June 2000), 1-30.
29. Michael Kraft, “A New Environmental Policy Agenda: The 1980 Presidential Campaign and Its Aftermath,” in Norman J. Vig and Miachel E. Kraft (eds.), Environmental Policy in the 1980s (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1984), 38.
30. B. Drummond Ayres, Jr., “Conservatives Bid Reagan Cut More,” New York Times (Jan. 22, 1983), 7.
31. David Helvarg, The War Against the Greens: The “Wise Use” Movement, the New Right, and Anti-Environmental Violence (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1994), 20-21.
32. Jeff Krehely, Meaghan House and Emily Kernan, Axis of Ideology: Conservative Foundations and Public Policy (Washington, DC: National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, March 2004), 18-19.
33. Beder, Global Spin, 77-79, 91-106.
34. Rachel Egen, Buying a Movement: Right-Wing Foundations and American Politics, a report by the American Way (1996): 1-43.
35. Daniel Faber and Deborah McCarthy, “Foundations for Social Change: Critical Perspectives on Philanthropy and Popular Movements,” Introduction in Foundations for Social Change, eds. Faber and McCarthy, 14-15.
36. G. William Domhoff, Who Rules America? Power & Politics (Boston: McGraw Hill, 2002), 72; and Joan Roelofs, Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003).
37. Beder, Global Spin, 83.
38. Covington, “Moving Public Policy to the Right” (note 2), 89-93.
39. David Callahan, $1 Billion for Ideas: Conservative Think-tanks in the 1990s (Washington, DC: National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, 2001), 5.
40. Krehely, House, and Kernan, Axis of Ideology, 4-8; and Rick G. Cohen, “Introduction: The State of Philanthropy 2002,” in The State of Philanthropy 2002 (Washington, DC: National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, 2002), v.
41. Krehely, House, and Kernan, Axis of Ideology, 13-18.
42. Ibid.,14, 40-41.
43. Ibid., 40-42.
44. Ibid., 34.
45. John J. Fialka, “Lawyer who challenged EPA case had social contacts with judges,” Wall Street Journal (March 23, 2004), A4.
46. Thomas Koenig and Michael Rustad, “Toxic Torts, Politics and Environmental Justice: The Case for Crimtorts,” Law & Policy 26, no.2 (April 2004):189-207.
47. Thomas Koenig and Michael Rustad, In Defense of Tort Law (New York: New York University Press, 2001).
48. Sharon Buccino, Tim Dowling, Doug Kendall, and Elaine Weiss, Hostile Environment: How Anti-Environmental Federal Judges Threaten Our Air, Water, and Land, a report by the Alliance for Justice, Community Rights Counsel, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (July 2001), available at www.nrdc.org/legislation/hostile/execsum.asp.
49. Koenig and Rustad, “Toxic Torts, Politics and Environmental Justice,” 189-207.
50. Buccino, Dowling, Kendall, and Weiss, Hostile Environment.
51. In January of 2002, Eugene Scalia was appointed Solicitor of Labor in the US Department of Labor as a recess appointment following a Senate refusal to approve the nomination. A staunch union opponent, Scalia was responsible for overseeing Departmental litigation and responsibilities, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act. He resigned from the position a year later, and returned to the private sector to resume his work on behalf of the polluter-industrial complex. See SourceWatch, “Eugene Scalia,” A Project of the Center for Media & Democracy, at www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Eugene_Scalia (April 2, 2007).
52. Philip Shabecoff, A Fierce Green Fire: The American Environmental Movement (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2003), 280.
53. www.opensecrets.org/bigpicture/bigspenders.asp?Display=A&Memb=S&Sort=A (Apr 26, 2006).
54. Overall, Democrats collected 60 percent of the money from these top 100 donors, largely due to the financial power of the unions and their strong preference for Democratic candidates. See www.opensecrets.org/pubs/toporgs/intro.asp (April 26, 2006).
55. Center for Responsive Politics, “Top Industries Giving to Members of Congress: 2006 Cycle,” available at www.opensecrets.org/industries/mems.asp (November 3, 2006).
56. See www.opensecrets.org/pubs/toporgs/intro.asp (April 26, 2006).
57. See www.opensecrets.org/pacs/industry.asp?txt=Q11&cycle=2000 (April 26, 2006).
58. For instance, electric utilities such as Southern Company and Edison International, along with energy companies such as ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco, provided more than $30 million of this total. Southern contributed to 11 of the 18 current members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which is responsible for environmental regulations, and to 38 of the 57 members sitting on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is responsible for energy and environmental policy. See Brandon Wu, Paying to Pollute: Campaign Contributions and Lobbying Expenditures by Polluters Working to Weaken Environmental Laws, a report by the US PIRG Education Fund (April 2004), 1-45, esp.18-22.
59. In an attempt to “de-legitimate” the new committee, Dingell reportedly told the Associated Press that it would function as nothing more than a travel club for members of Congress. “We should probably name it the Committee on World Travel and Junkets,” said Dingell. “We’re empowering a bunch of enthusiastic amateurs to go around and make speeches and make commitments that will be very difficult to honor.” See Rick Klein, “Markey caught in wrangling on global warming,” Boston Globe (January 19, 2007), A1, A10.
60. Chair Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, a longtime advocate of mandatory caps on carbon emissions and higher fuel economy standards, was selected by Pelosi to steer the oversight and investigatory functions of the new committee. See Rick Klein, “Markey in line to head new global warming committee: House votes to create panel amid dissent,” Boston Globe (Friday, March 9, 2007), A13.
61. Alan C. Miller and Tom Hamburger, “Records sought for two groups opposed to Bush clean-air plan,” Boston Globe (February 20, 2005), A18.
62. Although significant contributions were made to the 2000 Bush Presidential campaign by these trade associations, no such contributions were made to the Gore campaign. Representative Billy Tauzin, and Representative Joe Barton, former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay completed the top five recipients in the House. In the Senate, James M. Inhofe received the second largest amount of money from these sectors, followed by Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman, the chair and ranking member, respectively of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. See Wu, Paying to Pollute, 19.
63. Brad Heavner and Ellen R. Montgomery, America’s Environment at Risk, a report by the Frontier Group, a policy center of the national association of state Public Interest Research Groups (2003), 19.
64. The ship’s name was changed to the Altair Voyager after Rice joined the Bush administration.
65. Heavner and Montgomery, America’s Environment at Risk, 23.
66. Weidner and Watzman, Paybacks, 24.
68. Dan Zegart, “The Gutting of the Civil Service,” The Nation 283, no.17 (November 20, 2006): 24-30.
69. George A. Gonzalez, Corporate Power and the Environment: The Political Economy of US Environmental Policy (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001).
70. Molly Ivins, “This Cabinet if full of corporate America,” Boston Globe (February 10, 2001).
71. For instance, between fifty and one-hundred senior managers quit, retired, or were demoted, fired or transferred during the Bush Administration. See Zegart, “The Gutting of Civil Service,” 24.
72. Jonathan Lash, Katherine Gillman and David Sheridan, A Season of Spoils: The Story of the Reagan Administration’s Attack on the Environment (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), 5.
73. Sponsors for CREA’s kickoff gala included key organizations of the polluter-industrial complex, such as the Chlorine Chemical Council, National Coal Council, Chemical Manufacturers Association, and the National Mining Association.
74. Robert D. Bullard, ed., Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice & Communities of Color (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1994).
75. These companies included Delta Petroleum, the Shaw Group (energy pipeline maker), and the petroleum storage company Warren Rogers Associates.
76. Gale Norton was replaced in 2006 as Secretary of the Interior by Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne, who amassed a dismal environmental record during his six years in the US Senate in the 1990s (he recorded a “0″ on the League of Conservation Voters legislative scorecards for every year except 1993). When Kempthorne was campaigning to represent Idaho in the Senate, and after he was elected in 1992, he received more than $507,000 from individuals, companies and interests in the agribusiness sector and timber industries, including wood product manufacturer Potlatch Corporation and Boise Cascade Corporation, according to campaign filings analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics. The energy and natural resources sector provided an additional $265,000 to Kempthorne during his Senate tenure, of which 20% came from the mining industry. In the Senate, Kempthorne was chairman of a subcommittee on drinking water, fisheries and wildlife and fought to open national forests to logging, mining and oil exploration. As Governor, Kempthorne cut the state’s environmental services budget three times in two years.
77. Miguel Lianos, “Does arctic refuge video break the law?” MSNBC (April 12, 2002).
78. For more information on the control of federal lands by the polluter-industrial complex, see The Environmental Working Group, Who Owns the West? Oil and Gas Leases, available at www.ewg.org/oil_and_gas/execsumm.php (February 8, 2007).
79. Shell Accountability Coalition, Use Your Profit to Clean Up Your Mess: Report on How Shell Should Fund Local Solutions for Environmental and Social Destruction Caused by its Projects (February 2007), 5-58.
80. Reece Rushing, Special Interest Takeover: The Bush Administration and the Dismantling of Public Safeguards, a report by the Center for American Progress and OMB Watch on behalf of Citizens for Sensible Safeguards (May 2004).
81. Weidner and Watzman, Paybacks, 1-27.
82. Bruce Barcott, “Changing All the Rules: How the Bush Administration Quietly – and Radically – Transformed the Nation’s Clean-Air Policy,” New York Times Magazine (April 4, 2004), 40-44.
83. Rushing, Special Interest Takeover, 1-4.
84. Weidner and Watzman, Paybacks,1-27.
85. G. William Domhoff, The Powers That Be: Processes of Ruling Class Domination in America (New York: Vintage Books, 1979).
86. Center for Public Integrity, “Lobbyists Double Spending in Six Years,” in Tabb, “The Power of the Rich,” Monthly Review 58, no.3 (July-August 2006), 8-9.
87. See the “Money and Politics Databases” on the PoliticalMoneyLine website at
www.politicalmoneyline.com/cgi-win/lp_sector.exe?DoFn=ye&Year=05 (May 1, 2007).
PoliticalMoneyLine is a Washington DC-based organization that tracks lobbying based reports to Congress.
88. Wu, Paying to Pollute, 20-21.
89. Susan Milligan, “Energy bill a special-interests triumph: Closed, for business deals but no debate in Congress,” Boston Globe (October 4, 2004), A1, A10-A11.
91. Allison Cassady, Big Money to Big Oil: How ExxonMobil and the Oil Industry Benefit from the 2005 Energy Bill, a report by the US PIRG Education Fund (August 2005), 1-17.
92. See Wu, Paying to Pollute, 21-22.
93. John Donnelly, “Interior ethics lapses rarely punished: IG – Royalty loss could cost US tens of billions,” Boston Globe (Saturday, February 17, 2007), A2.
95. John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, Toxic Sludge Is Good for You: Lies, Damn Lies, and the Public Relations Industry (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995).
96. Susanna Rankin Bohme, John Zorabedian, and David S. Egilman, “Maximizing Profit and Endangering Health: Corporate Strategies to Avoid Litigation and Regulation,” International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health 11, no.4 (October/December 2005): 338-348.
97. Beder, Global Spin, 27.
98. Peter Montague, “How They Lie, Parts 1-2,” Rachel’s Environment & Health Weekly, no. 503 & 504 (July 18 – July 25, 1996).
99. Joe Thornton, Pandora’s Poison: Chlorine, Health, and a New Environmental Strategy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), vii-14.
100. David Roe, William Pease, Karen Florini, and Ellen Silbergeld, Toxic Ignorance: the Continuing Absence of Basic Health Testing for Top-Selling Chemicals in the United States (New York: Environmental Defense Fund, 1997).
101. Mary H. O’Brien, “When Harm Is Not Necessary: Risk Assessment as Diversion,” in Reclaiming the Environmental Debate: The Politics of Health in a Toxic Culture, ed., Richard Hofrichter (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), 113-134.
102. Devra Davis, When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution (New York: Basic Books, 2002), 89-122.
103. Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner, Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002).
104. Cousins, Perks, and Warren, Rewriting the Rules, 16.
105. David S. Egilman and Susanna Rankin Bohme, “Over a Barrel: Corporate Corruption of Science and its Effects on Workers and the Environment,” International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health 11, no.4 (October/December 2005): 331-337.
106. Jennifer Washburn, University Inc: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education (New York: Basic Books, 2005); and Sheldon Krimsky, Science in the Private Interest (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003).
107. Linda Rosenstock, “Global Threats to Science: Policy, Politics, and Special Interests,” in Contributions to the History of Occupational and Environmental Prevention, eds., A. Grieco, S. Iavicoli, and G. Berlinguer (London: Elsevier Science, B.V., 1999), 113, cited in Markowitz and Rosner, Deceit and Denial, 4.
108. Markowitz and Rosner, Deceit and Denial, 5.
109. Peter Waldman, “Publication to retract an influential water study,” Wall Street Journal (June 2, 2006), A10.
110. Industrial chromium was used as a rust inhibitor by the company at a facility in the small rural community of Hinkley, and polluted the groundwater used by local residents. In the largest settlement ever awarded in a direct-action lawsuit in US history, PG&E settled the case for $333 million in 1996. In February of 2006, PG&E announced it had reached another $295 million legal settlement with Hinkley residents not covered in the original settlement, as well as with chromium-contaminated residents living near PG&E plants in the Central Valley and near the Arizona border. According to the Los Angeles Times, the plaintiffs claimed that up to 140 times the federal standard for chromium in drinking water was measured in Hinkley’s water supply, and was responsible for the cluster of cancer cases in children from that area.
111. Frederci S. vom Saal and Wade V. Welshons, “Large Effects from Small Exposures: The Importance of Positive Controls in Low-Dose Research on Bisphenol A,” Environmental Research 100, issue I (January 2006): 50-76.
112. Elihu D. Richter, C. Soskolne, J. LaDou, and T. Berman, “Whistleblowers in Environmental Science, Prevention of Suppression Bias and the Need for a Code of Action,” International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health 7 (2001): 68-71
113. Glenn Scherer, “Religious Wrong: A Higher Power Informs the Republican Assault on the Environment,” E Magazine 14, no.3 (March/April 2003), 2-6.
114. Rick Weiss, “HHS seeks science advice to match Bush views,” Washington Post (September 17, 2002), A1.
115. Seth Shulman, Scientific Integrity in Policy Making: An Investigation of the Bush Administration’s Misuse of Science, a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (March 2004); and Seth Shulman, Scientific Integrity in Policy Making: Further Investigation of the Bush Administration’s Misuse of Science, a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (July 2004).
116. Environment2004, Putting Polluters First: The Bush Administration’s Environmental Record, a report by Environment2004 (June 2004), 21-24.
117. In the lead-up to the Rio Summit, the Coalition successfully lobbied the US government to avoid mandatory emissions controls; and in 1994 it called for the Clinton government to resist international agreements to reduce greenhouse emissions. The chair of the Coalition at the time was also president of the National Association of Manufacturers. Using specially tailored mailing lists, field officers, telephone banks and the latest in information technology, the Climate Coalition and other industry front-groups are able to generate hundreds of telephone calls and/or thousands of pieces of mail to key politicians, creating the impression of wide public support for their clients’ position. These “grassroots campaigns are far more effective than traditional lobbying – or even money contributions – in persuading politicians to vote in a particular way.” See Beder, Global Spin, 28-35.
118. National Research Council, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions, a report for the National Research Council’s Division on Earth and Life Studies, Committee on Science of Climate Change (2001), 1.
119. The anti-science movement has also extended itself into America’s schools. In 2002, the Texas Board of Education rejected several environmental science textbooks, include one entitled Environmental Science: Creating a Sustainable Environment. Critics forced the book ban primarily on ideological grounds, calling the text “vitriol against Western civilization and its primary belief systems.” Another science book was approved only after the publisher agreed to remove entire sections on climate change. See Scherer, “Religious Wrong” (note 113).
120. Statement of Scientists, Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policymaking, February 18, 2004, www.ucsusa.org/global_environment/rsi/page.cfm?pageID=1320 (March 12, 2007).
121. Elizabeth Kolbert, “Getting Warmer,” New Yorker (November 10, 2003).
122. The CEQ also cut out an entire chapter on climate change in EPA’s 2003 Draft Report on the Environment, and removed all references to National Academy of Science findings which confirmed the IPCC report asserting that climate change is happening, and that humans are altering the atmosphere. This is particularly ironic given that the White House requested the NAS report, but was unhappy with its findings.
123. Class domination of the state by the polluter-industrial complex does not mean total control but the setting of the terms under which other classes and social movements operate. See Clyde W. Barrow, Critical Theories of the State: Marxist, Neo-Marxist, Post-Marxist (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993), 25-28.