Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly
Rachel's #392, June 02, 1994

AN ILLUSTRATION OF EPA'S LACK OF INDEPENDENCE

As an example of how EPA kowtows to industry, consider the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). In 1986, Congress wrote into the Superfund amendments the"Community Right-to-Know" provisions which required companies to file annual reports of their releases of toxic substances into the environment. Senator Stafford, who introduced this provision, explained its purposes to the Senate including: "The inventories reveal geographic and industrial patterns of environmental release, which health officials can correlate with records of disease incidence to seek out possible relationships."(1)

Dr. John R. Stockwell, a senior physician with the U.S. Public Health Service and a specialist in preventive medicine, assigned to the Atlanta office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, did just that. Dr. Stockwell, who has published many research studies in learned journals, did a study of the possible relationship of the toxic releases in the Chattanooga area with disease incidence. [See RHWN #366.] However, because of EPA's fear of industry reaction, the report was suppressed. Only after it was requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) did the EPA office in Atlanta reluctantly release it in 1993.

We have recently obtained a copy of an internal EPA memo written by William Patton, Dr. Stockwell's supervisor, to 10 EPA staff, including Patton's boss, dated April 14, 1993. It reads (verbatim):

I just got a phone call from Susan Hazen [head of the TRI program in Washington] in the Office of [Pollution Prevention] and Toxics. They are very concerned that the report is going out especially when the new Administrator [Carol Browner] has just given specific instructions to them concerning the upcoming TRI data release: 'stay away from linking human health effects and the TRI data'

I explained we were using this tool as an inhouse targeting tool and were forced to release it due to FOIA appeals to Hqs.

I am holding a short meeting in my office today at 2 pm to discuss possible media questions. Ms Hazen was particularly interested in our communications strategy on this report. She sounded upset and said they will have to get to the Administrator about this ASAP.

Pat Tobin [Acting Regional Administrator] may need a short briefing before he is called by Browner.

As pointed out in RHWN #366, EPA's reaction to Dr. Stockwell was to try to get rid of him for doing exactly what was intended under the law. Meanwhile top EPA officials conspire to subvert the law.

--by William Sanjour

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1. A LEGISLATIVE HISTORY OF THE SUPERFUND AMENDMENTS AND REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 1986 (PUBLIC LAW 99-499), Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. Senate, October, 1990, Volume 2, p.1084.
 
 
 
 

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