Tagged ‘EPA‘

The Secret History of the EPA

by Carol Van Strum

Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts,” Richard Feynman famously declared in 1966. Ever quick to challenge accepted wisdom, he distinguished the laudable ignorance of science, forever seeking unattainable certainties, from the dangerous ignorance of experts who professed such certainty.

Twenty years later, he would drop a rubber ring into a glass of ice water to show a panel of clueless rocket experts how willful ignorance of basic temperature effects likely caused the Challenger shuttle disaster (1).

Experts with delusions of certainty create imitative forms of science, he warned, producing “the kind of tyranny we have today in the many institutions that have come under the influence of pseudoscientific advisors.” (2)


Feynman’s warning against faith in the phony trappings of “cargo cult science” fell on deaf ears. Policies affecting every aspect of our lives are now based on dangerous forms of ignorance.

A prime case in point is the noble edifice of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where a high-ranking EPA official was recently jailed and fined for collecting pay and bonuses for decades of non-existent work while he claimed to be working elsewhere for the CIA. Such long-standing fraud would hardly come as a surprise to Evaggelos Vallianatos, who toiled for a quarter of a century in the EPA’s Pesticide Division, ostensibly responsible for protecting human health and the environment from commercial poisons. His new book, Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA, documents a culture of fraud and corruption infesting every corner and closet of the agency.

The EPA, created with much fanfare by Richard Nixon in 1970, was an agency crippled at birth by inadequate funding, political hypocrisy, and laws protecting industry profits above all. Vallianatos points out that one of the fledgling agency’s greatest handicaps was its initial staffing with personnel from USDA, steeped in the religion of corporate agriculture and lethal technologies. With USDA staff came also USDA’s outdated pesticide registrations, which were to be reviewed and reregistered by EPA.  In addition, hundreds of new pesticide applications accumulated every year, each supported by industry-produced safety studies to meet new federal requirements. Hired as scientists, EPA staffers spent their time cutting and pasting industry studies and conclusions into rubber-stamped registration approvals. Under industry-crafted laws, once a pesticide was registered, it could never be unregistered without massive, unequivocal evidence of harm.

As if such misuse of science weren’t bad enough, audits by FDA and EPA soon found that most of the thousands of industry safety studies used to approve pesticide registrations were fraudulent. Alerted by FDA scientist Adrian Gross, EPA had discovered in 1976 that Industrial BioTest Laboratories [IBT], which had conducted many of the pesticide safety tests submitted to EPA by manufacturers, had been routinely faking tests, falsifying data, and altering results for years.  Subsequent investigations of other testing laboratories found similar practices poisonspringin more than half the labs whose tests supported EPA registrations of pesticides.

“IBT was not a unique case of scientific fraud,” Vallianatos writes, “it was emblematic of a dark and deviant scientific culture, a ‘brave new science’ with deep roots throughout agribusiness, the chemical industry, universities, and the government.” (3)

In 1979, during the seven years of EPA dithering over this scandal, Vallianatos came to work at EPA. He soon learned that not a single pesticide registration was to be canceled due to fraudulent or nonexistent test data. Instead, he notes, EPA’s reaction was to outsource science. It shut down its own testing laboratories, closed its own libraries of toxicity data on thousands of chemicals, and outsourced all evaluations of industry-sponsored studies. “The unspoken understanding in this outsourcing of government functions has been the near certainty of finding industry data satisfactory – all the time.” This issue is relevant today, given that chemicals such as 2,4-D and glyphosate (Roundup™), whose uses have been vastly increased by GMO practices, were originally registered on the basis of invalid IBT studies.

During Vallianatos’s first year at EPA,1980, some 1.1 billion pounds of pesticide active ingredients were applied to U.S. food crops, a number that does not include home and garden uses, parklands, golf courses, playing fields, and municipal landscapes. In 2011, two billion pounds of pesticides were sold in the U.S.  Most if not all of those pesticides lacked valid testing data then, and still lack such data today.  Furthering the fraud, Vallianatos points out, the active ingredient is only the tip of the iceberg, being as little as one percent of the product; the remainder is a trade secret stew of untested, unknown “inert” ingredients that are often more toxic than the active ingredients. What he calls “The Big Business of Fraudulent Science” has replaced even the semblance of environmental protection.

Poison Spring chronicles some of the consequences of that fraud in an agency snared in its own tangled lies: cover-ups of dioxin levels in drinking water and in dead babies; routine suppression of data linking pesticides to soaring rates of cancer, birth defects, and chronic disease; industry access to everything; “revolving door” administrators serving corporate bosses; political appointees dismantling EPA labs and data libraries to dispose of damaging evidence; the cutting of research funds for nontoxic alternatives; the harsh retribution visited on whistleblowers; and ever and again, bureaucrats, with full knowledge of the consequences, setting policies that result in death and suffering. For 25 years, Vallianatos saw and documented it all.

“EPA officials know global chemical and agribusiness industries are manufacturing science,” Vallianatos writes. “They know their products are dangerous…. [EPA] scientists find themselves working in a roomful of funhouse mirrors, plagiarizing industry studies and cutting and pasting the findings of industry studies as their own.”

“This entire book is, in a sense, about a bureaucracy going mad,” Vallianatos adds.

Bureaucracy does not go mad by itself, however. Public indifference to the ignorance of experts and public tolerance of lies are what allow such madness to flourish, enabled by the scientific community’s silence. Inexorably, Vallianatos found, “science and policy themselves have been made a prop to the pesticides industry and agribusiness.”

Such monumental fraud demands drastic remedies, which Vallianatos bravely urges: rebuild an EPA completely independent from industry and politics, remove incentives for huge scale, chemically-dependent corporate agriculture, and address the underlying problem by encouraging small family farms and agriculture without chemical warfare.

“Traditional (and often organic) farmers – until seventy-five years ago, the only farmers there were – are slowly beginning to make a comeback.  They have always known how to raise crops and livestock without industrial poisons,” Vallianatos points out.  “They are the seed for a future harvest of good food, a healthy natural world, and democracy in rural America – and the world.”

These are facts, and this is a book that scientists and citizens alike ignore at great peril.


[Carol Van Strum is a writer, editor, farmer, parent, and chronic thorn in the side of those who endanger the health and safety of people and the environment. She lives and works in the Oregon Coast Range. She is the author of  A Bitter Fog: Herbicides and Human Rights.]



(1) See his account of the investigation into the Challenger disaster in What Do You Care What Other People Think? By Richard P. Feynman, 1988.

(2) Richard Feynman, What is Science? Presented at the fifteenth annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association, 1966 in New York City, and reprinted from The Physics Teacher Vol. 7, issue 6, 1969, pp. 313-320 by permission of the editor and the author.

(3) For more information about the extent of this lab fraud, see A Bitter Fog: Herbicides and Human Rights, by Carol Van Strum, 1983, revised 2014 with full texts of Peter von Stackelberg’s exposé of the issue in a new appendix.

This review originally ran on Independent Science News.


Democracy in Reverse | Non-Profit Disaster Capitalism on the Gulf Coast

July 11, 2013

by Elizabeth Cook 


The most recent public meeting of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, held in Belle Chase on June 12, was an exercise in democracy in reverse.(1)

It is an undemocratic process that is largely for political theater, in my view, so I used it as such. I was as dramatic as possible in presenting the most important points, in my view, of the reality on the Gulf. People have only three minutes to speak. The funding is a long way off, so why not have round table discussions, that can go on all day, where people wander in and out depending on their schedule? No, in three minutes, you have to state all of your concerns about the gulf, BP, oil, the Corexit (2), bioremediation or the lack thereof in the marshes, the dying marshes (3), the culpability of the government in the use of Corexit (4), the fact that the Feds want to expand drilling to Florida (5) and the Corexit is being stockpiled all up and down the Gulf coast (6). If there another major oil well blowout in the Gulf and the Corexit is used in massive quantities again, then this restoration process will have to start all over. Common sense folks (yes, I did say that). 

Designer Protests and Vanity Arrests in DC

The Post-Modern Protest Blues


Weekend Edition April 12-14, 2013


The scene was striking for its dissonance. Fifty activists massed in front of the White House, some of them sitting, others tied to the iron fence, most of them smiling, all decorous looking, not a Black Blocker or Earth First!er in the viewshed. The leaders of this micro-occupation of the sidewalk held a black banner featuring Obama’s campaign logo, the one with the blue “O” and the curving red stripes that looks like a pipeline snaking across Kansas. The message read, prosaically: “Lead on Climate: Reject the KXL Pipeline.” Cameras whirred franticly, most aimed at the radiant face of Daryl Hannah, as DC police moved in to politely ask the crowd to disperse. The crowd politely declined. The Rubicon had been crossed. For the first time in 120 years, a Sierra Club official, executive director Mike Brune, was going to get arrested for an act of civil (and the emphasis here is decisively on civil) disobedience.

The British Bee Keepers Association Defense of the Pesticide Industry

The British Bee Keepers Association Defense of the Pesticide Industry



MP’s Support Ban of Neonics, but BBKA Shows Abject Failure

Simple Bees

April 5, 2013

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee today published the two volume report of its investigation into Pollinators and Pesticides.  The report focussed on the so-called neonicotinoid group of insecticides and the conclusions are clear. The report recommends that that the government department responsible (Defra):

NRDC Conflicts of Interest

A Cursory Analysis to Prompt Further Examination by An Inquiring Press Corp.

The Declared Mission of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is, ostensibly, “to foster the fundamental right of all people to have a voice in decisions that affect their environment. We seek to break down the pattern of disproportionate environmental burdens borne by people of color and others who face social or economic inequities. Ultimately, NRDC strives to help create a new way of life for humankind, one that can be sustained indefinitely without fouling or depleting the resources that support all life on Earth”.

When considering a few examples (below) of their Board Members’ financial interests, please consider what inclination the NRDC will have to work against the financial interests of their Board Members, when deciding on the organization’s position regarding pressing environmental issues. Would they, for instance, stand against their Board Members’ interests if these stand to profit greatly from a neo-liberal trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (or the Colombia FTA) or from a deal with a major coal plant operator (like TXU) or an oil company that wants to cut a road deep into the Ecuadorian Amazon (like Conoco)?

(See here for details on anti-environmental positions taken by the NRDC.)

Based on the interests of Board Members of the NRDC, the ‘environmental’ organization’s advocacy for a dangerously inadequate U.S. climate policy comes off as self-dealing and self-serving.

    The Business Interests of Some NRDC Board Members

1. Richard E. Ayres, Esq.
The Ayres Law Group
We assist clients in high stakes regulatory proceedings, both informal and formal. We counsel clients on how to use the regulatory process to their own benefit often helping design regulatory proposals to be taken to EPA or important state pollution control agencies. We help our clients to understand what environmental regulations require – and don’t require – so they can stay in compliance and still achieve their business objectives. And we help those who may have enforcement issues with the Environmental Protection Agency.

2. Henry R. Breck, Trustee and Finance Chair of N.R.D.C.
Partner, Heronetta Holdings
Former member of the CIA and investment banker at Lehman Brothers. Also Chair of the Lehman Management Company.
See here and here.

Henry R. Breck has been Chairman of Ark Asset Management Co., Inc., a money management firm with $13 billion under management, since 1989. Previously, he was an investment banker at Lehman Brothers and Chairman of Lehman Management Company, the predecessor company to Ark Asset Management. Mr. Breck joined Lehman Brothers in 1968 and was made a partner in 1972. Prior to his investment banking career, Mr. Breck was employed by the Central Intelligence Agency. He also served in the United States Air Force.

The NRDC website, interestingly, changed from an earlier version which listed Breck’s association as Chair of Ark Asset Management. That’s confirmed here.

While Heronetta Holdings is quite opaque, Ark Asset Management is well known:

Ark Asset Management has three subsidiaries
( :
Covance, Inc., formerly, Hazleton Labs, Ralcorp Holdings, Inc, and Wolverine World Wide

Wolverine World Wide has holdings in Amgen, Apache Corp, Anadarko Petroleum, Bank of America, Chevron, Citigroup, Clorox (in 2002), ConocoPhillips, Dow (2002), Duke Energy, Exxonmobil, Freeport McMoran, Gap, General Electric, Halliburton, International Paper (2002), JP Morgan, Kimberly Clarke, Marathon Oil, Merck (2002), Merrill Lynch, National Oilwell Varko Inc,, Newmont Mining, Oil States International, Pfizer, Phillips Petroleum (2002), Pioneer Drilling, Precision Drilling Corp, Reliant Energy (2002), Royal Dutch Petroleum, United Technologies.

Mr. Breck is also on the boards of Butler Capital Corporation and ASA Limited.

However, Breck is not listed as on the ASA board through their own website:

ASA Limited is a closed-end management investment company. The Company provides investors a vehicle to invest in a portfolio consisting primarily of the stocks of companies engaged in the exploration, mining or processing of gold, silver, platinum, diamonds or other precious minerals. The Company may invest in gold, silver and platinum bullion or securities. These securities seek to replicate the price movement of gold, silver or platinum bullion.

3. Ruben Kraiem, Partner, Covington and Burling
Rubén Kraiem is a partner at Covington & Burling LLP, where he co-chairs, with Stuart Eizenstat, the firm’s Carbon Markets, Climate Change and Clean Technology practice. His practice includes transactional work on behalf of investors and institutions in the carbon markets. He is involved also in legislative work on behalf of clients engaged in the climate change policy debate. Most recently, he was involved in promoting the proposed acquisition of TXU which resulted in three massive coal plants being built in Texas. Mr. Kraiem is an advisor to the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, and in this capacity he attended the Bali Conference on Climate Change (COP-13) in December, 2007. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Fordham Law School.

C&B’s practice in the Energy area:
We represent investor-owned utilities, independent power producers, local distribution companies, natural gas pipelines, energy marketers and traders, oil and gas producers, wind producers, electric cooperatives, large end-users, financiers, project developers, institutional equity investors, a coalition of electric generators, transmitters, distributors, and consumers, and project advisory firms in a wide range of regulatory, corporate, and legislative energy matters.

C&B’s practice in the Nuclear area: (note the revolving door)
The former Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Dr. Richard Meserve, has rejoined the firm and brings extensive experience on nuclear matters. We can provide experienced counseling and advisory services in connection with nuclear matters arising at the state and federal level.

4. Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr.; Chair Emeritus
Senior Counsel, Cravath, Swaine & Moore
Some of their clients as found at
Here are a few choice few of the most environmentally destructive ones:
Weyerhaeuser Company
In 2007, we represented Weyerhaeuser in the merger of its fine paper business with Domtar Inc. for approximately US$3.3 billion.

Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc. – Phelps Dodge Corp.
In 2007, we advised JPMorgan Chase and Merrill Lynch, as lead arrangers and underwriters, in connection with the financing of Freeport-McMoran’s purchase of Phelps Dodge for approximately US$23 billion, the largest mining acquisition on record.

Petroplus Holdings AG
In 2006, we represented the global coordinators (Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley) in connection with the CHF2.52 billion (equivalent to US$2.1 billion) 144A/Reg. S initial public offering of registered shares of Petroplus Holdings AG, one of the largest independent refiners and suppliers of unbranded petroleum products in Europe. The shares were listed on the SWX Swiss Exchange.

LS Power Equity Advisors, LLC
In 2006, we represented LS Power Equity Advisors, LLC in connection with a sale of assets to, and joint venture with, Dynegy.

Southern Peru Copper Corporation
In 2005, we represented the underwriters (led by Citigroup and UBS Investment Bank) in connection with the US$947 million registered common stock offering of Southern Peru Copper Corporation, the world’s largest publicly traded copper company as measured by reserves. The shares were listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Lima Stock Exchange.

Latin America
We have represented Vitro, Mexico’s largest glass maker, AmBev, the Brazilian beverage manufacturer, and GP Investimentos in a variety of transactions. In addition, we have represented JPMorgan Securities and Citigroup, as lead underwriters, in connection with the securities offerings of South American businesses, particularly in the pulp and paper manufacturing and mining sectors, which involve significant environmental issues.

5. Robert J. Fisher; Vice Chair, Director, GAP Inc.

6. Michel Gelobter, Ph.D.
Founder, CEO, Cooler Inc.
“Cooler is an on-line, for-profit venture that enables consumers and retailers to buy and sell millions of everyday goods and services while offsetting their global warming impacts. ”

NRDC’s Finances

The NRDC’s 2007 financial statement also reveals their millions of dollars of investment in the fossil fuel industry. Can we really expect them to be pushing for a transition towards renewables (i.e. not hydrocarbons or biofuels/biomass) when they are heavily invested in those? Two lines of credit from top carbon trading promoting banks – Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase – extend to NRDC 10s of millions of dollars at low interest.

The NRDC’s most recent financial statement has them investing $23 million of their endowment with the biggest underwriter of coal operations in the U.S., the Bank of America. It also shows the NRDC heavily invested in the Carlyle Group widely considered as profiting from no-bid contracts in an illegal invasion of a sovereign country launched to secure hydrocarbons. The Carlyle Group funds also include major holdings in the fossil fuel industry itself. These include massive ethanol biofuel and toxic gas infrastructure and service companies, like the major oil and gas player Cobalt, which seeks to extract oil and gas from the Gulf of Mexico and Africa, and Gibson Energy which provides “midstream services” to the oil and gas industry, services which have found their way to providing ’solutions’ to accessing hydrocarbons in Western Canada.

There are other intriguing Board Members to research for enquiring minds at the following link (a few are listed below):

Adam Albright; Vice Chair, Private investor; Environmentalist

Susan Crown, Principal, Henry Crown and Company; Executive, Foundation Chair, Community
Henry Crown and Company has holdings in Aspen Ski Resort.

Also in oil and gas:

They are also an opaque investment company. So more info appreciated.

Bob Epstein
Co-Founder, Sybase, Inc., and Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2); Organizer and Director, New Resource Bank

Environmental Entrepreneurs – a few of these people w/links to both Hill & Knowlton ( and the NRDC; Creepy cousins

Jill Tate Higgins, Private investor; General Partner, Lakeside Enterprises, L.P.
Nothing on her/Lakeside except that she’s also in E2

Bob Kerrey, President, The New School

Philip B. Korsant, Managing Member, Korsant Partners$/SEC/Name.asp?S=philip+b.+korsant

Maya Lin, Artist; Designer – Maya Lin was the proposed architect for a proposed paper de-inking facility on the South South Bronx waterfront, which was championed by NRDC. It took Bronx-wide mobilization to defeat this environmentally unjust project.

Philip (Pete) Ruegger III, Chair, Executive Committee, Simpson, Thatcher & Bartlett
Christine H. Russell, Ph.D., Environmentalist; Foundation director
Wendy Schmidt, President, The Schmidt Family Foundation; Founder, The 11th Hour Project
Max Stone, Managing Director, D.E. Shaw & Company, L.P.
Elizabeth Wiatt, Environmentalist; Founder, Leadership Council

Dean E. Abrahamson, M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
Robert O. Blake, U.S. Ambassador (retired)
Joan K. Davidson, Former Parks Commissioner, NY State; President Emeritus, The J.M. Kaplan
Frederick A. Terry, Jr.. Senior Counsel, Sullivan & Cromwell

NRDC’s Greatest (Environmental) Hits

From the Mobilization for Climate Justice Organization

NRDC – Undermining sound environmental campaigns through deal-making and betrayals

Here below are a few examples of this corporate-friendly “environmental” group’s greatest betrayals of sound, uncompromised environmental positions. At the end of this post, we offer some background on NRDC’s role in shaping current US climate policy and conclusions about US Climate Policy moving forward in an equitable, sound manner.

Our actions on Nov 30 sent a warning shot across the bows of corporate ‘greens’ who distort climate science on behalf of major polluters and are obstructing and undermining grassroots campaigns for a prompt transition to a just, low carbon economy.

The MCJ proposes a range of solutions (including leaving hydrocarbons in the ground and more).

Table of Contents

1. NRDC played a key role in the formation and promotion of the United States Climate Action Partnership (2007- present):
2. NRDC is promoting methane gas drilling despite absence of scientific studies (2007)
3. NRDC supports New Coal Plants
4. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the N.R.D.C.
5. Oil Giant Conoco and NRDC vs. the Ecuadorean Amazon and Huaorani – forest-dependent peoples (1991)
6. NRDC and Enron: Role in Utility Deregulation
7. A Kinder Gentler Alberta Tar Sands
8. Utility Shill NRDC attacks Prop. 7
Background on NRDC and Current Climate Policy

NRDC’s Greatest (Environmental) Hits