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E-M:/ Lone Tree Council Press Release



Lone Tree Council

P.O. 1251, Bay City, Michigan 48706

(Fighting for environmental justice since 1978)

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                          CONTACT: Terry Miller (989) 686-6386                                             

                                                                                                                               (989) 450-8097 cell

 December 18, 2008                                                                  Michelle Hurd Riddick (989) 793-3313

                                                                                                                                 (989- 327-0854 cell

                                                                                                     Scott Edwards Waterkeeper Alliance

                                                                                                                                 (914) 356-6909

                                                                                                            

Groups Charge EPA is Poised to Cut Deal With Dow Chemical In Waning Days of Bush Administration

 National and regional environmental organizations strongly objected today to closed door negotiations to reach an agreement on the largest dioxin contaminated site in the country. Dow Chemical, the world's largest chemical company, has contaminated more than 50 miles of river downstream from the company's global headquarters in Michigan.  In a letter sent to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, groups including Waterkeeper Alliance, the Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan’s Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and the League of Conservation Voters allege the proposed process could result in an agreement that reduces the protectiveness of the cleanup, weakens the government's hand in requiring timely action, curtails public input and reduces government transparency and accountability.   

"Every single one of our nation's environmental laws was built on a foundation of transparency and public participation," stated Waterkeeper Alliance Chairman, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.  "EPA's attempt to circumvent that fundamental approach is an attack on the very cornerstone of our
democracy."

The EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) launched the private negotiating session with Dow with the intent of negotiating an agreement under the non-regulatory Superfund Alternatives Sites (SAS) program.  This would change the way the cleanup would be administered.  Currently the site is administered through requirements in an existing State hazardous waste permit.

 "The best disinfectant is always sunlight," said Lana Pollack, Director of the Michigan Environmental Council"The best disinfectant is always sunlight," said Lana Pollack, Director of the Michigan Environmental Council. This is public health issue and the public has a right  to be at the table.

More than a year ago, the EPA rejected an agreement negotiated using the same proposed framework.  At the time, the EPA stepped away from those negotiations.  The Agency said at the time, "EPA does not believe that the deal Dow is offering goes far enough," and "Key issues that are paramount for protecting human health and the environment remain unresolved. EPA simply will not accept any deal that is not comprehensive."  After rejection of the proposal by then Region V EPA Administrator Mary Gade and other actions related to the cleanup, Mary Gade was terminated from her job.

 "We are concerned that an agreement negotiated behind closed doors, with an Administration who's regulatory philosophy has been notably pro-polluter, does not bode well for the protection of our the Great Lakes,"  said Michelle Hurd Riddick of the Lone Tree Council.  "We fear they are picking up where they left off now that Mary Gade is gone."

 The SAS is a non-regulatory program that has never gone through a public process of rulemaking, nor has the program been evaluated for effectiveness in achieving cleanup.  Many SAS sites are languishing without action. The SAS process circumvents some of the requirements of the federal Administrative Procedures Act, and other public input provisions of the Superfund law, thereby essentially eliminating a public role in a major cleanup impacting the commons in the region.

 This spring, EPA Region V and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality lauded the accomplishments made in 2007 as the most progress made in 30 years.  Yet the SAS proposal would derail the existing process, replacing it with yet another process. EPA has not made a compelling case for the SAS process. In their  comments ( letter attached) to EPA Administrator Johnson, the signatories state: "  There is no need for this mid-stream switch from an existing, clean up process under a workable, enforceable RCRA corrective action permit to an unnecessary, potentially detrimental SAS approach that could lead to time delays and less extensive and less protective clean up"

 Dow Chemical's contamination site stretches more than 50 miles from the Company's global headquarters to Saginaw Bay, one of the largest watersheds in the Great Lakes.  The contamination is dominated by dioxins, a family of chemicals that are toxic in tiny amounts, and have been found in every species tested in the watershed, including residents of the area.  Fish consumption warnings stretch into Lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes.  Dioxin can disrupt vital functions at infinitesimally small amounts, and has been linked to immune system suppression, diabetes, endometriosis, cancer, birth defects, and a host of other health problems.