As our elected officials in Washington attempt to sell us on the idea that we need to go to war against anyone who uses chemical weapons, they are working to remove safety standards that protect citizens from corporate America’s ongoing chemical assault.
In recent weeks, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rolled back safety regulations for the chemical industry, while the U.S. House of Representatives has prepared to take aim at the government’s ability to monitor chemicals and other safety hazards posed by fracking.
Bowing to pressure by the chemical industry, the EPA has decided to withdraw a proposal that would have added numerous new substances to their database of hazardous chemicals, which is used to issue public health assessments and warnings. One of the substances is Bisphenol A, a chemical used in the manufacture of certain plastics that has been linked to an increased risk of cancer and reproductive impacts.
The EPA had previously expressed a great deal of concern over the lack of safety standards in place for toxic chemicals that studies had shown were dangerous to the public, but the pressure coming from the chemical industry was far too great for them to overcome.
The American Chemistry Council, a lobbying group that operates as the political arm of chemical manufacturers, believes that the EPA made a “wise decision” to not go forward with their new proposals. The group has spent more than $4 million this year alone lobbying the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, and the EPA.
Rather than compiling their lists now, as their proposed rule allowed, the EPA decided to wait until all chemicals are thoroughly and repeatedly analyzed, a process expected to finish in 2017, unless delayed. Then they will begin the process of drafting new proposals.
This means that the American public will suffer another four years of inaction and exposure to chemicals that the agency already knows are toxic.
But the chemical industry isn’t the only group enjoying favorable treatment from Washington; the natural gas industry could receive a very generous gift from the U.S. House of Representatives in the very near future.
Republican Rep. Eric Cantor told fellow lawmakers recently that the House will soon vote on legislation that would strip the U.S. Department of Interior of their ability to regulate the fracking industry. Instead, Cantor told lawmakers, the states would become solely responsible for fracking oversight.
Texas Republican Bill Flores introduced the legislation in July, playfully titled “The Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act.”
Perhaps Flores has spent too much time away from his constituents to learn that fracking is literally bleeding his state dry of drinkable water.
While the Interior Department has yet to enact any meaningful rules for the industry – they are still in the drafting stage for now – Republicans in Congress are worried that these rules would force the industry to reveal the chemical cocktails used in fracking, which in turn would lead to increased liability for the industry, on top of public backlash over the way the industry is allowed to operate without accountability.
The American public is in for a tough ride if we’re going to give corporations the unprecedented ability to use toxic chemicals without federal oversight. And if the recent events in Washington are any indicator, that could be exactly where we are headed.