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Chemical Industry Funding Shifts Focus Away From Chemical Risks

Dupont Funding Shapes Research and Focus on Issues

“Good News” Masks Health Risks, Polluter Liability, and Lax Regulation

Funded Conservation Groups Enable Propaganda & Promote Industry Agenda

Would anyone in the media or the NJ “conservation community” like to honestly confront this set of issues and break this damaging dynamic of industry propaganda? ~~~ Bill Wolfe

I’ve been meaning to write about this story for weeks, an amazing example of chemical industry greenscam that has flown below the radar for far too long and needs to be called out.

Two stories in today’s Star Ledger prompt me to do so.

Bear with me and follow the logic, as I connect the dots to show how: 1) chemical industry money; 2) bought and paid for “conservation groups”; 3) passive or captured regulators; and a 4) clueless news media work together to shape issues and focus in a way that betrays the public interest and protects the corporate interest.

(similar funding from corporate friendly philanthropic foundations and DEP grants are used to drive an issue agenda that enables this corruption, but that’s a broader story I’ll hold off on for another day. And the problem is not just created by Dupont or the chemical industry – the pharmaceutical industry, PSEG and other major corporate players have mastered this corrupt game.)

In the first story, we learn that “the focus has shifted from environmental contamination” in the Raritan River, a major source of water supply in NJ:

The focus has shifted from environmental contamination and poor land use planning to a more positive view of the river and that includes looking for economic and recreational opportunities

Ironically, the funding for the project that shifted the focus comes from the DEP “Natural Resource Damage”  (NRD) program – a DEP enforcement initiative that requires that polluters compensate the public for damage and loss of natural resources caused by their pollution (see:

Similarly, the shift in focus takes us way from considering the 500 chemicals – all unregulated – that DEP has found in NJ’s water supply rivers and away from DEP and water purveyors’ failure to respond to those public health risks (see: Filter the chemical soup in NJ’s drinking water).

The shift in focus also takes us away from examining the troubling issue of how the chemical industry’s failure to cleanup toxic sites – there are dozens on the banks and hundreds  in the Raritan watershed that pollute the River – impacts our drinking water.

And of course, that shift in focus takes us away from thinking about whether DEP enforces the Clean Water Act and  stringently regulates the pollution discharge permits for hundreds of industrial plants, municipal sewage treatment, and storm water outfalls.

So, the Star Ledger’s “good news” coverage and shift in focus divert public attention away from not only chemical contamination, but also from considering how DEP is doing in enforcing clean water laws and the NRD program and making polluters pay.

So, with all these problems masked by the “shift in focus”, one might say, that’s just what the chemical industry – and associated polluters like the pharmaceutical industry – and lax or captured government regulators ordered.

Maybe the media would like to look into who is funding the organizations and individuals that are shifting the focus by propagating this propaganda?

Which takes me to the second Star Ledger story that illustrates exactly this point.

The Auditor reports that the Hudson County Executive has withdrawn a previous letter attacking EPA’s proposed cleanup of the Passaic River.

That attack on EPA was prompted by lobbyists for polluters – known as “responsible parties” – who would have to pay to cleanup the mess they made of the river.

Oh, and it just so happens that those polluters arranged for $50,000 in funding as an incentive – which essentially amounts to an implicit quid pro quo – or bribe.

Here’s the Auditor’s description of this corruption:

Back in January, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise sent a letter to EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck criticizing her agency’s ideas for cleaning up the polluted Passaic River.

The letter was based on a form provided by a consortium of 70 companies that will help pay for the cleanup and want the EPA to use a cheaper alternative. At the same time the companies asked local officials to use their form letter, they encouraged them to apply for improvement project grants the firms were handing out.

But last month, DeGise — whose county got a $50,000 grant from the companies — took back his words.

“My letter of January 23, 2013 was written before I understood certain facts about the status of the clean-up and I am rescinding it at this time,” DeGise wrote to Enck on June 11.

This is the Jersey Way – and this was just one example. But is a huge anomaly.

The vast majority of similar abuses where corporate money – channeled through politicians, government and “conservation” groups – is used to define issues, shape the focus, and buy access and influence are never reported by the media.

And the few that are reported, the abuse is rarely corrected as it was in the Hudson County/Passaic EPA case.

Which takes me to my final example – perhaps the most glaring and egregious.

The Dupont corporation is buying Delaware Bay – the scientific research agenda,the conservation groups issue advocacy agenda, and the media and government response agenda.

Ironically, in an Orwellian twist, Dupont is doing all that via a program called “Clear Into the Future” (which just might be a bigger propaganda effort and lie than “Responsible Care”).

Let me show you just how Dupont is doing that.

Hit the links on that Dupont website and note that the Dupont description of the Delaware estuary, the importance of the estuary, and the threats to the estuary never once mentions chemical contamination – the contamination that Dupont causes and government regulators increasingly tend to ignore.

Dupont also fails to provide any information on clean water laws, or government regulation. How convenient – keep the public in the dark on the science and the law.

Then hit the links to explore Dupont funding – who they fund and what they fund. 

Note that again, none of this work involves chemical contamination.

In essence, conservation groups are taking Dupont money to work on issues Dupont wants them to work on – which makes them more like Dupont’s private consultants than advocates of the public interest.

Dupont’s use of grant money restricts the problem definition such that issues Dupont does NOT want worked on don’t get funded or advocacy.

The groups that take Dupont grant money are doing Dupont’s scientific and public relations bidding, just like the effort of the RP’s in the Auditor Passaic River EPA attack and just like the situation on the Raritan.

And the government regulators enjoy a pass.

And the media is so superficial in their “journalism” that they serve as stenographers for the chemical industry, and might just as well be on the payroll.

So, we’ve managed to come full circle – this is exactly what we saw in the industry funded Passaic EPA attack and what we see in the “good news” and “shift in focus” on the Raritan River, where we started this post.

So, would anyone in the media or the NJ “conservation community” like to honestly confront this set of issues and break this damaging dynamic of industry propaganda?

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