Millions of Americans at Risk as Chemical Lobby Blocks Legislation
In a new Greenpeace investigation into the lobbying of the chemical industry against chemical security legislation, researchers identified an army of 169 lobbyists who successfully led a campaign to kill legislation in 2008. If passed, the legislation would have significantly reduced the consequences of terrorist attacks on “high risk” chemical plants in the U.S.
Among the chemical industry's legion of lobbyists are former Members of Congress, legislative directors, and chiefs of staff. Most notably, Moses Mercado, of Olgivy represented the American Chemistry Council (ACC), American Petroleum Institute, Chevron, Hess and Monsanto. Prior to his work with Ogilvy, Mercado worked for former Representative Dick Gephardt (D-MO) and was chief of staff for Representative Gene Green (D-TX), who is a key member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is currently taking up comprehensive chemical security legislation. Mercado was also a Super Delegate (TX) for Obama and turned down a paid position in the presidential campaign because of his registered lobbyist status and instead volunteered extensively for Obama during the campaign.
Other prominent examples in the revolving door crowd include: former Representative Cal Dooley (D-CA), who was appointed CEO of the ACC in 2008; former Representative Gerry Sikorski (D-MN), who was the author of chemical plant right-to-know legislation in 1986 and a former member of the Energy & Commerce Committee; and former Governor John Engler (R-MI), who is the CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers whose members include major chemical companies.
As Senators, Barack Obama and Joe Biden were champions of legislation almost identical to what is now pending in Congress. In 2006, Barack Obama said: "We cannot allow chemical industry lobbyists to dictate the terms of this debate. We cannot allow our security to be hijacked by corporate interests." Yet while the chemical industry again tries to stall legislation in Congress, the new Obama administration has been silent. Greenpeace posted a video of the Senators' speeches on the issue at: http://vimeo.com/6036562
"It is not yet clear whether industry lobbyists, such as Moses Mercado, who had unprecedented access to Obama in 2008, have been effective in weakening the President's policies on chemical security," said Rick Hind, Legislative Director of Greenpeace.
"Regardless of their resources, we can not let the security of the U.S. be compromised by corporate lobbyists. It's time for Congress and the President to stand up to these influence peddlers and protect the millions of Americans still at risk," said Hind.
In June, a comprehensive bill (H.R. 2868) that would replace the 740 word temporary law prohibiting any requirement of safer chemicals and exempting thousands of chemical facilities moved out of the House Homeland Security committee. If passed, the new legislation would require the highest risk chemical plants to use safer chemicals or processes to reduce the catastrophic risks that currently endanger millions of Americans where feasible. The bill will next be taken up in the House Energy & Commerce Committee in September along with H.R. 3258, a companion water facility bill.
In a March 2009 letter to Congress, 34 chemical industry trade organizations again expressed their opposition to safer chemical processes. This letter served as a roadmap to trace industry trade organizations and the lobbyists they hired to kill chemical security legislation. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) is the largest chemical industry trade association. The two largest member companies of the ACC, Dow and DuPont, are active members of many of the trade associations that signed the March 2009 letter.
Using a conservative methodology, Greenpeace estimated a range of spending by the chemical industry lobbying against public safeguards in 2008. The range has a base minimum of nearly $13 million but may be as much as $44 million. The data was obtained from the official lobby reports gathered from the website http://sopr.senate.gov, the official site of the Office of the Secretary of the Senate.
VVPR info: Contact: Jane Kochersperger, Media Officer, (202)680-3798 cell; Mae Stevens, Policy Analyst, (202)319-2454 direct
Notes: The report is available at: http://research.greenpeaceusa.org/?a=download&d=4640 For Greenpeace’s online press kit on chemical security: http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/media-center/news-releases/chemical-security-online-media/