Collected Papers of William Sanjour
After 30 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency I finally retired in June 2001. Before my retirement I decided to try to gather all the things I have written about EPA and my experience as a whistleblower in one place. With my retirement I continued to write on subjects of interest to me but didn’t have much luck getting them published so I lost interest. But now I find everyone is blogging so I dredged up some of my letters and I am blogging too. See LETTERS PUBLISHED AND UNPUBLISHED. ( My friends say its not really a blog, so shoot me.) I’d be interested in reading your comments. William Sanjour
May 1. Designed to Fail: Why Regulatory Agencies Don’t Work. After the failure of the SEC and the agencies that regulate offshore drilling and mine safety, I saw the catastrophic failure of three different regulatory agencies as a wake up call for Congress to, this time, really reform how we regulate industries in America. I was disappointed to see that that was not happening and that Congress appeared to be going down the same old well trodden path that leads back to where we started. I therefore felt compelled to write this paper in the hope that some good can come from these catastrophes. This is based largely on a more detailed essay I wrote in 1992 “Why EPA is Like it is and What Can be Done About it.” Posted July 27, 2010.
Originally written in 2010, an updated version was reprinted by the Independent Science News in 2012. Posted May 21, 2012.
September. I received the Sentinel Award from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and was interviewed by their publication, Fraud Magazine. In this interview I elaborated my ideas how to make regulatory agencies work in the public interest. Posted September 22, 2007.
February 19, What Did We Know About Hazardous Waste and When Did We Know It. Industry and EPA are frequently in a state of denial about when we knew about the dangers of dumping hazardous toxic chemicals. Industry because they are trying to avoid the responsibility and tremendous cost of cleaning past dumping by claiming that “nobody knew it was a problem back then, so we can’t be held responsible.” EPA and state governments have been known to deny any institutional knowledge of the problem before a certain date, and that date will vary depending on the spokesperson. This attitude exists in order to avoid criticism for not having prevented earlier dumping and is fueled by the very human reaction that “it wasn’t a problem until I learned it was a problem.” This paper grew out of my involvement as a witness in a civil law suit. Posted March 13, 2006.
October 17, The Death of Capitalism. An essay/review of “Trust Us, We’re Experts” written at the suggestion of one of the authors, John Stauber. It gave me the opportunity explain my theory of how capitalism is destroying capitalism. Stauber loved it, a feeling not shared by any of the periodicals I sent it to. Posted May 10, 2005
July 26, Bush Environmental Enforcement Appointee Is Bad News. An article I wrote for TomPaine.com about the appointment of Donald Shregardus to be EPA’s top cop. Dispised by Ohio environmentalists where he used to head the Ohio EPA, the most egregious charges against him stem from a federal court decision that he had suppressed information about school children exposed to cancer-causing chemicals and he had fabricated charges against the government environmental specialist in charge of the investigation. I’ m delighted that my article contributed to the withdrawal of his nomination. However, it was EPA’s release of a long overdue report of their investigation of the failure of Shregardus’ Ohio EPA to enforce federal environmental laws that was really Shregardus’ undoing. In other words it was probably EPA Administrator Christie Whitman herself who shot down Shregardus. Posted July 27, 2001.
June 8, The Supreme Court’s Attack on the Environment. An (unfortunately) unpublished essay I wrote, with the encouragement and support of Steve Kohn, on how recent Supreme Court decisions, by the same 5 to 4 majority, are eroding the basis of all federal environmental laws. I wrote this because the environmental movement has tended to focus on those Court decisions which directly effect environmental law while the trend in other decisions, not related to the environment, is more important. Posted 4/3/02.
January 4, A Textbook for Whistleblowers. Review of whistleblower attorney, Steve Kohn‘s definitive work on whistleblower protection law. Printed in Rachel’s Environment & Health News. Posted March 19, 2001.
November 4, Letter from the National Whistleblower Center to the House Committee on Science regarding a hearing entitled “EPA’s Sludge Rule: Closed Minds or Open Debate?” The March, 2000 hearing focused on EPA’s response to scientific discourse and questions by researchers regarding the land application of biosolids. The Center submitted a letter, signed by me, to the Committee regarding EPA’s suppression of science and persecution of scientific whistleblowers which was endorsed by over 30 organizations and individuals. In truth, the letter was mostly written by Dr. David Lewis while I gathered most of the co-signers. Posted 10/27/00.
October 1, The 1978-79 Sludge War. Because of the recently revived interest in sewage sludge I have decided to memorialize the sludge battles in which I was involved in 1978-79 during the early days of RCRA. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Posted 10/5/99.
July 22, Letter to EPA Administrator Carol Browner about how her promises to make the polluters pay for Superfund cleanup is being sidestepped by the polluters with EPA’s acquiescence. Thanks to Jeff Symmes for this. Posted 4/7/99.
July 12, What’s Wrong With the EPA? An article I wrote for In These Times and later reprinted in RACHEL’S Environmental & Health Weekly and a lot of other places. Posted 4/7/99.
February 22, Letter to the New York Times about Bill Clinton. Posted 4/11/99.
July 4, Letter to EPA Administrator Carol Browner about EPA Inspector General Nikki L. Tinsley threatening EPA employees about violating non-existent law. In 1995, thanks to the National Whistleblower Center, I won a four year battle in federal court to overthrow a government regulation which restricted the free speech of government employees (Sanjour v EPA). Nevertheless, EPA’s new Inspector General issued a bulletin threatening employees with severe punishment for the violation of a law which the court had declared unconstitutional. Posted 4/7/99.
June 12, Letter to EPA Administrator Carol Browner about the Bloomington, Indiana Superfund site. I investigated a citizen’s complaint about this site while working for Bob Martin, the EPA Superfund Ombudsman. EPA officials stonewalled me, so when I left the Ombudsman’s Office (frustrated by the stonewalling} I wrote a series of letters about the cases I had handled. Mick Harrison, Greg Moore and the folks at COPA were behind this. Posted 4/7/99.
Spring, EPA Ombudsmen-Community Friends or Foes? In June of 1996, I attended a training session for the newly created regional ombudsmen (not to be confused with Bob Martin the real ombudsman). As cynical as I am, I was nevertheless shocked to hear such bad-mouthing of community activists from the lips of the very people selected by EPA to investigate community complaints. I wrote a memo to EPA Assistant Administrator Elliott Laws and his deputy Tim Fields telling them what I had experienced, but I never got a response. This contributed to my frustration in working for Tim Fields in the Ombudsman’s office. After I left I felt the community activists should be warned of these regional ombudsmen so I turned the memo over to Lois Gibbs who then wrote this article. This incident was also the inspiration for writing the article “What’s Wrong With the EPA?” which appeared in In These Times. Posted 7/7/99.
May 8, Letter to EPA Administrator Carol Browner about the Winona, Texas hazardous waste site. This is another Ombudsman site.Phyllis Glazer and M.O.S.E.S. eventually won the struggle to close a dreadful hazardous waste site protected by EPA and the Texas authorities. At one point in my investigation an EPA attorney assured me that the competence of the site operators was demonstrated by the fact that they filled out their application correctly! Posted 4/7/99.
Undated, Forward to a book on whistleblowers. Contains one of my pet themes: It is not the whistleblower who needs protection so much as it is the public that needs the protection of the whistleblower. Posted 4/13/99.
July 20, The Monsanto Investigation. This is a report on the failure of EPA to investigate allegations that the Monsanto Company had falsified scientific studies on the carcinogenicity of dioxin and instead persecuted the EPA whistleblower who brought this to EPA’s attention. EPA’s actions were a great disservice to Viet Nam veterans suffering from the affects of agent orange. Input from Peter Montague of the Environmental Research Foundation and Cate Jenkins made this possible. Posted 4/7/99.
June 2, An Illustration of EPA’s Lack of Independence, Rachel’s Environment & Health Weekly #392. As an example of how EPA kowtows to industry, consider the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). EPA Administrator Carol Browner ordered EPA scientists to stay away from linking human health effects and the TRI data although this was precisely the use that Congress envisioned when it passed the law requiring the TRI. Posted 6/4/99.
February, Environmental Whistleblowers: An Endangered Species, a paper I wrote with Steve Kohn for the Environmental Research Foundation. The report profiles the work of three environmental whistleblowers whose acts of courage saved lives and millions of taxpayers dollars. Whistleblowing often constitutes the front line of defense of public health and safety and the environment from corporate and governmental waste, fraud and abuse. Yet weak laws leave many whistleblowers unprotected and at the mercy of vengeful employers. It is not so much the whistleblower who needs protection, but the public that needs the protection or the whistleblower. Posted 4/23/99.
January 12, First of several letters to EPA Administrator Carol Browner about the Columbus, Ohio municipal incinerator. Through no prescience of mine, this memo hit EPA like a bombshell. It came just as EPA was preparing its new dioxin policy which included naming municipal incinerators as a major source of dioxin. My memo showed more dioxin from this one site then what the agency had published as being emitted from all incinerators in the country put together. Teresa Mills, Joan Seeman and PARTA had been trying in vain to raise the issue for a year when they asked me to get involved. The letter I wrote was picked up by the press and was the catalyst which forced the community as well as local, state and federal officials to action which led to the closing of the incinerator. Posted 4/7/99.
September 18, Introductory Remarks for Undeclared Whistleblowers. Remarks I made at a meeting of environmentally concerned health professionals at the invitation of Linda King. Most whistleblowers do not start out to blow the whistle on anyone. They simply do what they think they ought to be doing. My advice to would-be whistleblowers: don’t be a whistleblower, avoid open challenge or defiance of authority, try to satisfy your conscience without getting personally involved, remembermanagement prizes loyalty above competence and don’t think you can continue defying the-powers-that-be and still enjoy the same lifestyle as before just because you are right. Posted 4/7/99.
September 2. Unpublished letter to Washington Post in response to an editorial urging repeal of strict liability in the Superfund program. Strict liability works, and it costs the taxpayers nothing, in contrast to costly regulatory bureaucracies which don’t work. Of course American industries would rather have the costs of their irresponsible actions shared by the multitude; there’s nothing like strict liability for converting a capitalist to socialism. Posted 7/27/2010.
August 12, Dietrich’s Law, Rachel’s Hazardous Waste News #350. In 1990 rumors were circulating that the United States Department of Justice was dropping criminal cases against executives of Fortune 500 companies. Richard Emory, Acting Director of EPA’s Criminal Enforcement Counsel Division, was ordered to investigate. What he found was shocking. As a reward Emory was removed from the position and in spite of numerous citations for efficiency and excellent performance over the years, he was treated like a pariah and reassigned to a meaningless low-level job. Posted 4/26/99.
January 14, Letter to Terri Swearingen about the General Accounting Office (GAO) report on the EPA permit for the WTI incinerator. This is one of several letters I wrote about the infamous WTI incinerator at Terri’s behest. This letter is a critique of the GAO report which Terri’s lobbying had initiated. It summarizes the criminal acts by EPA and the state of Ohio which GAO whitewashed. Posted 4/7/99.
December 22, Memo to EPA Inspector General about EPA Office Director Giving Instructions on Violating Laws. When EPA found that hazardous waste incinerators could not meet EPA standards for dioxin (as demonstrated by Dr. Pat Costner of Greenpeace), Sylvia Lowrance, head of the office that wrote the EPA standards, wrote instructions on how to violate them. She has since gone on to become the deputy head of EPA enforcement. Posted 4/7/99.
October 8, Memo on “EPA’s Regulation of Commercial Hazardous Waste Incinerators“. I’m not opposed to incinerators per se but to EPA’s regulations and lack of enforcement. The once burgeoning incinerator business has been killed by citizen opposition which might have been avoided had EPA written community friendly regulations. This paper tells why. Reprinted by the Environmental Research Foundation under the title “An Odor Like a Skunk Dipped in Creosote and Burned“. Posted 4/16/99.
September/October, Sierra Magazine article In Name Only. A condensed version of an article I wrote for the Environmental Research Foundation called “Why EPA Is Like It Is and What Can Be Done About It“. Picked up and reprinted in lots of places especially the Revolving Door part. Posted 4/20/99.
March 5, Congressional Testimony on Sanjour v EPA. I suppose I should be flattered that the mighty United States government wrote a law just to silence only me and one other person. The law was a result of years of frustration at EPA trying to silence Hugh Kaufman and me from speaking out in public in opposition to government policy and the embarrassment at having to answer complaints from important people why the agency had to tolerate this conduct. For example when Lois Gibbs and I were invited to speak in Alberta, Canada in opposition to a hazardous waste landfill, the landfill operator wrote a scathing letter to the administrator wondering how a government official could do that “without putting his continued government employment in jeopardy” (see also e.g. a letter from Pennsylvania and an editorial from North Carolina). The Canadian government was also up in arms. EPA was humiliated at having to apologize not only to the landfill operator but to the State Department as well. This, my fifth Congressional testimony dealt with the origins of the law by the Federal Office of Government Ethics (an oxymoron) and the lies used to justify it. The lawsuit to overthrow it, Sanjour v EPA, brought by the National Whistleblower Center eventually prevailed but one is nevertheless left apprehensive at the Stalinist tactics the government is willing to use to silence perfectly legal dissent. Posted 12/3/99.
February. Why EPA Is Like It Is and What Can Be Done About It. A rather long (35 pages) essay on how regulatory agencies become corrupted. Published by Peter Montague’s Environmental Research Foundation. Posted 6/7/2010.
July 25, Who Polices The Policeman? Strange and mysterious cover-up by three different branches of EPA when I tried to get answers to simple questions about EPA’s efforts to investigate reports (by Corinne Whitehead) of illegal dumping of hazardous waste into an abandoned mine shaft in Kentucky. It was like something out of a Hitchcock movie. Published by the Environmental Research Foundation. Posted 6/17/99.
March 25, Comments on The Environmental Protection Agency: Asking The Wrong Questions by Marc K. Landy, Marc J. Roberts and Stephen R. Thomas. In 1990 three University professors wrote a critique of EPA. One chapter dealt with the history of the beginnings of RCRA, a subject with which I was intimately familiar. Unfortunately they relied only on interviews with Tom Jorling and other top level political appointees who used the naive academicians to re-write the history of their own shameful emasculation of the hazardous waste protection laws. The authors cited me several times, mentioned me several more times (in most derogatory terms and misspelled my name) as being an important actor in the events covered, yet they never interviewed me or attempted to obtain my views. I wrote this letter to heads of the three universities to document their fiction. A revised edition in 1994, toned down the nasty rhetoric but still contained many of the same factual errors and a few new ones and still misspelled my name. Posted 4/9/99.
May 11, Letter to Congressman Dingell asking him to open an investigation into EPA coruption. The decision against EPA by an EPA Administrative Law Judge in the North Carolina case showed just how corrupt the agency had become. It was clear from Judge Nissen’s findings that EPA was completely under the thumb of the hazardous waste management industry. The agency had lied, broken the law and made up it’s own rules to stop North Carolina from protecting its own citizens, all at the behest of the hazardous waste management industry. Although Hugh Kaufman and I worked with Dingell’s staff, he chose not to investigate. Too bad. The opportunity was lost for some major reforms. Posted 5/19/99.
May 10. Letter to Mark Woodall about commercial hazardous waste facilities. Woodall, a Georgia citizen concerned about a proposed hazardous waste facility in his area, asked about the experience of other facilities. I told him I knew of no commercial hazardous waste facility where the local citizens had not organized to try to close it down. I included statements from six respectable citizens from six different commercial hazardous waste facilities who all said the facilities depressed the area and were poorly monitored by corrupted state regulatory agencies. Posted 7/26/2010.
February 24, Op-ed piece in the Atlanta Constitution: Incinerator would erode waste reduction plan. Folks in Georgia asked my help in blocking a hazardous waste incinerator in Taylor County. In addition to speeches, I testified in the state legislature and was asked to write this op-ed piece. It took a change of governors, but the citizens eventually triumphed. This piece has one of my pet themes concerning why the interests of the commercial hazardous waste industry are diametrically opposite and opposed to the interests of society. Posted 4/14/99.
September 19, Letter to environmental activist Larry Bassignani regarding John DeVillars. DeVillars was Secretary of Environmental Affairs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Upon seeing the June 20th letter below he invited Kaufman and me to a meeting but later canceled when he learned from “senior EPA officials”, that we had “no professional responsibility for … the harbor clean-up project”. The citizens were outraged by this cancellation and demanded a meeting with DeVillars, to which he agreed. I wrote this letter to prep them on the issues. In the letter I spelled out how Massachusetts had manipulated and compromised its own environmental protection rules and lied to the public so as to allow toxic Boston sewage sludge to be dumped in a suburban landfill (see below). The landfill was never built and DeVillars went on to become the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England Administrator. Posted 10/27/00.
June 20, Memo to EPA Administrator William K. Reilly on plans to clean Boston harbor. EPA and Massachusetts, supported by some Boston “environmentalists” planed to clean up the poison in Boston harbor by sending it out of town. In order to get the recipients of this toxic sludge to accept the plan, EPA used the techniques of every other polluter, scheming and lying, including the howler “any leak which did occur in the landfill liner could be quickly repaired” (anyone who could figure out how to do that would be richer than Bill Gates). True environmentalists in Massachusetts got Lois Gibbs, Hugh Kaufman and me involved. They won. Posted 4/15/99.
March 31, Letter to EPA Administrator William K. Reilly urging him not to prevent North Carolina from having stronger environmental protection laws than the federal government. Lee Thomas was Reilly’s predecessor. Thomas, had been pressured by the waste management industry and its allies inside EPA to force North Carolina to back-off from issuing a law which would have prevented the construction of a “waste treatment” plant opposed by the neighboring Lumbee indians. After some serious study and a little nudging from environmentalists including myself and Hugh Kaufman, he refused. The waste management industry and its EPA allies tried again with Reilly. Reilly, new to the game, was easily conned. It turned out to be a big blunder. The Attorney General of North Carolina, allied with several environmental groups, fought EPA in court and won hands down. Reilly not only lost but he got egg on his face when he naively admitted to the press that he took the action against North Carolina only because he was pressured by the waste management industry. Richard Regan, an indian activist, got me involved in this case. Posted 4/13/99.
December 23, Memo about how some EPA personnel were working to prevent recycling. I was given the assignment to write regulations which required government agencies to buy recycled products. An assignment no one else wanted. In spite of the fact that I had no staff and few resources I was able to get out four controversial regulations in four years, a feat unheard of in EPA before or since. Not that I was any great genius, but by this stage of my career I didn’t give a damn who I offended in order to get the job done right. As this memo demonstrates, my battle was with my own government and my own agency. No doubt, fear of this memo going public allowed me to get the job done right. Posted 2/2/00.
July 13, Memo critiquing draft EPA municipal solid waste strategy. EPA’s proposed Municipal Waste strategy blames the consumer for throw-away products. I must have gotten out of the wrong side of the bed when I wrote this, but it contains two of my favorite themes: 1) EPA ought to adopt the ethic that the safe disposal of a product is part of the responsibility of the manufacturer of the product, and if he doesn’t know how to dispose of his products safely. he has no business making them in the first place, and 2) EPA has continually failed to grasp that the government cannot promote the siting of waste management facilities and then expect the public to accept them as disinterested objective evaluators of the risks associated with the facility. Posted 4/12/99.
February 2, Memo on how EPA gave favored treatment to Waste Management Inc. This is the third memo on EPA’s generosity to WMI. The Vickery case is a classic example of: the bigger the crime, the more important the criminal, the less the punishment. Phil Shabecoff, then with the New York Times, wrote an excellent expose of these three cases based on our memos (Phil, you are greatly missed). Posted 4/9/99.
February 1, Review of EPA Inspector General’s Report of Ocean Incineration Permit Issued to Waste Management Inc. This is the second of the three memos I wrote with Hugh Kaufman on EPA largess to Waste Management Inc. Someone in EPA falsified an Ocean Incineration Permit Issued to Waste Management Inc. for the incinerator ship Vulcanus which resulted in a windfall of perhaps $3.5 million and the EPA Inspector General found it was an inconsequential “clerical error”. Posted 6/3/99.
January 30, Emelle Consent Agreement With Waste Management Inc. When I returned to EPA from my detail at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, Hugh Kaufman asked me to help him research and document several egregious cases of waste, fraud and abuse by EPA which he had uncovered, all resulting in windfalls for Waste Management Inc. In the first one, for $450,000 and an agreement to follow some, but not all, of the rules, EPA gave Waste Management a PCB disposal permit, a waiver from the PCB rules, a waiver from the need to remove illegally stored PCB’s, and a waiver from most other regulations. The value to them is perhaps over one hundred million dollars. Posted 6/2/99
October 16, Letter to the Editor of EPA’s in-house magazine about Administrator Ruckelshaus’ re-writing history. EPA had taken a lot of heat (which I helped generate) about it’s failure to implement the hazardous waste regulations under RCRA, so they invented the excuse that nobody in EPA knew anything about hazardous waste until a half hour ago. This fairy tale re-appears many times in different guises. Posted 4/9/99.
May 17, OTA memo Where Have All The Superfund Wastes Gone? I took a detail to the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment in order to take a break from the harassment at EPA and to do some useful work. I found that the worst fears expressed in my 1979 Congressional testimony had been realized. Pressured to spend Superfund money as fast as it can, EPA was paying polluters millions to move their pollution from one leaking dump site to another. This memo spread through the Hill and the press like wildfire and had EPA straining to cope. Many reforms on the handling of Superfund wastes resulted. Posted 5/7/99.
April 6, Groundwater Protection Standards For Hazardous Waste Land Disposal Facilities: Will They Prevent More Superfund Sites? The summary of a study I did while detailed to the late lamented Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. I tried to do a thorough analysis of what was wrong with EPA’s RCRA regulations and how they are not preventing future Superfund sites. The study was immediately publicized in the NY Times (to the consternation of OTA), presented in Congressional testimony by Dr. Joel Hirschhorn and contributed to the drive for many RCRA reforms. It is included in the OTA report “Superfund Strategy“. Posted 5/5/99.
November 30, Congressional testimony on EPA’s hazardous waste landfill regulations. My third invitation to testify was to a Congress concerned about the goings-on at Ann Gorsuch’s EPA in general and the landfill regulations in particular. EPA finally issued landfill regulations in 1982, five years after they were due. Although riddled with loopholes, a naive press hailed EPA’s heroic achievement–although the bloom quickly faded after hearing testimony from me and many others. My testimony was aimed at taking the Congressmen behind the seemingly reasonable regulations and showing them the hollow facade they were. Two years later Congress passed the landmark Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA) which incorporated many of my ideas (not all unique to me) on banning landfills and which contained the “hammer provisions” explained in my article “In Name Only“. Posted 5/9/99.
September, Warrenton, North Carolina PCB Landfill and the Environmental Justice movement. Just as Love Canal focused national attention on the hazardous waste problem, Warrenton focused national attention on the racist aspects of the location of hazardous waste dump sites and gave impetus to the Environmental Justice movement (see article by Robert Bullard). Protests went on for weeks and hundreds were arrested. I am proud to have been a speaker at one of the public meetings protesting the landfill. Although it was little more than my basic speech (see May 6, 1982) it stirred a hornet’s nest. NC Governor James Hunt protested to EPA Assistant Administrator Rita Lavelle and a newspaper editorial called for EPA to “Rein in Sanjour” (the paper also published my response). Seven months later I was invited to testify before the North Carolina legislature on the dangers of hazardous waste landfills and the same newspaper wrote an editorial praising my testimony. My prediction that the PCBs would leak out — vehemently denied by official EPA spokesmen — came true even quicker than I would have expected, leading to more protests. Posted 6/1/99.
May 6, Speech delivered to the Red Rose Alliance of Lancaster Pennsylvania. Between 1980 and 1991 I gave dozens of similar speeches at community meetings all over the country and Canada about hazardous waste landfills and later hazardous waste incinerators. The theme was that the public has paid for the research into these subjects and the knowledge I have gained and is entitled to know about it. These invitations to speak were usually to counter the lies and half-truths being told to the community by industry and EPA. While the speeches were extemporaneous, in this instance the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources taped the speech and had it transcribed in order to send a complaint to the US EPA Assistant Administrator Rita Lavelle. I’ve taken some liberties in editing it to remove redundancies, inaccuracies and sloppy grammar. Posted 5/30/99.
February 26, Letter to Lois Gibbs of the Center For Health, Environment and Justice on the reasonableness of the “Not in My Backyard” syndrome. Posted 4/10/99.
November 25, White House behind cut back in hazardous waste regulations. Letter to journalist Greg Mitchell (one of the first reporters to publicize Love Canal) explaining that the real source of the cutbacks in hazardous waste regulations was from President Jimmy Carter’s hatchet man. In the note I mistakenly referred to Hamilton Jordon, whereas the actual culprit was Carter’s other hatchet man, Jody Powell. This article explains the source my becoming a whistleblower. See also Blake Early’s explaination. Posted 6/16/99.
June 16, Impotence of Hazardous Waste Regulations . Memo I wrote for use by Rep. Albert Gore (D-Tenn) who chaired oversight hearings into EPA’s 1980 hazardous waste regulations. The memo pointed out that many of the damage cases which were used by EPA to justify passage of RCRA would not have been prevented by these regulations. Gore raked EPA’s Gary Dietrich over the coals with this information. Posted 6/10/99.
August 1, Senate testimony on how EPA sabotaged RCRA hazardous waste regulations in 1978 in order “fight inflation” and then pushed for highly inflationary Superfund legislation to cover their tracks. I testified: “Whereas previously these [toxic] wastes may have been disposed of inadequately and secretly, they can soon (thanks to a clean bill of health from EPA) be disposed of inadequately and openly”. I also warned against pork barrel Superfund legislation under consideration because “EPA’s priorities follow the dollar.” It turned out to be prophetic. In the months following my testimony EPA scrambled to paper over some of the more glaring cracks. Posted 4/22/99.
March 15, Memo about how EPA decided it would avoid regulating oil and gas drilling industry and electric power industry hazardous waste. This is another of the memos I wrote for my Congressional testimony. Gary Dietrich, who was Tom Jorling’s hatchet man would brook no interference in protecting these two powerful industries and inventing reasonable sounding lies to cover it up. That’s what high level bureaucrats are for. Posted 4/7/99.
March 7, Memo on cover-up of cut back hazardous waste regulations. In this memo, prepared for my Congressional testimony, I memorialized Tom Jorling’s attempts to cover-up his tracks by falsifying the official docket. The document was subsequently removed from the docket. Jorling’s motives are explored in 11/25/80 letter. Posted 6/16/99.
March 5, Memo on orders to cut back hazardous waste regulations. In 1979 I was asked to testify in the Senate about how EPA was emasculating the hazardous waste regulations required by RCRA. In preparation for that testimony I wrote several memos memorializing the events in which I participated in 1978. This memo is about the meeting in which Jack Lehman conveyed Tom Jorling’s orders to emasculate the regulations in order to “fight inflation”. Jorling denied under oath that he had told that to Lehman, but despite considerable pressure, Lehman, although a loyal soldier, never recanted. Posted 6/16/99.
December 11, Memo on how to deal with small hazardous waste generators. Add it to my collection of good ideas that never flew. Although there was Congressional interest in my suggestions, the big waste hauling firms wanted no part of it. Posted 4/11/99.
September 21, Standards for Landspreading of Hazardous Waste. In 1975 I worried that EPA might compromise the hazardous waste regulations in order to allow sewage sludge to be used as fertilizer. In 1978 it happened. This is one of my submissions to the EPA Docket which was surreptitiously removed and I was removed a few days later. Posted 9/21/99.
June 11, Memo on Options for Implementing Hazardous Waste Regulations. In June of 1978, Assistant Administrator Tom Jorling told his staff to cut back the hazardous waste regulations, which were under development, in order to fight inflation. This memo, written partly in sarcasm, pointed out ways the agency could save money by altering its regulatory approach and yet not reduce public health protection. Jorling, of course, preferred the hatchet to the scalpel. I also sent a copy of the memo to the public docket where it was surreptitiously removed. This memo, I think, was the beginning of the end for me. Posted 4/11/99.
October, The Prevalence of Subsurface Migration of Hazardous Chemical Substances at Selected Industrial Waste Land Disposal Sites, Introduction and Conclusions. The title is a mouthful and the study is written in pure bureaucratese, but it is nevertheless an important landmark. I conceived of a study which would conclusively demonstrate (or not) that most hazardous waste landfills are leaking. After a year of pleading, I got the green light and awarded a contract to Geraghty & Miller with Dave Miller and Olin Braids as the principal investigators. The report proved conclusively that “ground-water contamination at industrial waste land disposal sites is a common occurrence” and ended all talk that the hazardous waste program was based on a few anecdotes. Several states succeeded in getting the report banned for a while, but we got it out eventually. Posted 6/8/99.
October 25, Letter to Washington Post re Sewage Sludge. The Washington Post ran an editorial praising EPA policy of banning ocean dumping of sewage sludge and encouraging its use as fertilizer, e.g. Milwaukee’s Milorganite. Although this letter rebutting that policy, was not used by the Post, I have used the material in many other formats and with the help of a friend in the Milwaukee media, we were able to get the Milwaukee sewage authorities to label Milorganite as unfit for use on food plants. Later, EPA had other sludge recyclers follow suit. Posted 9/17/99.
January, Damage Report on Dioxin Poisoning Caused by Improper Waste Disposal in Missouri. Before
the passage of RCRA my staff had documented hundreds of cases of health and environmental damage from improper disposal of hazardous waste. This report is on the infamous horse arena dioxin poisoning. The serious illness of a six year old farm girl was the beginning of the road which lead to Congress’ passage of the Superfund law. The horse arena site is being cleaned up under Superfund for a cost of $2.8 million. Far greater pollution from the same source caused the evacuation of Times Beach, MO in one of the biggest ($48 million) and most contentious Superfund cases, and the case is still boiling. Posted 6/8/99.
October 17, Memo on Policy Implications of Sewage Sludge on Hazardous Waste Regulation. Sometimes my prescience frightens me. I wrote this memo before the passage of RCRA warning that because of the EPA policy to encourage the use of sewage sludge as fertilizer, there would be a conflict over including sewage sludge as a hazardous waste, which it frequently is. I asked the question “Will we fail to adequately regulate industrial wastes for fear of compromising EPA’s policy on municipal sludge?” Three years later the answer was yes. Posted 4/10/99.
March 7, Damage Report on Industrial Waste Disposal on Farmland in Illinois. In order to acquaint Congress and the public with the need for legislation to control hazardous waste I had my staff research and write up a series of damage reports illustrating the hazardous waste problem. By 1975 we had collected a dossier on over 400 hazardous waste disaster sites, which had grown to over 600 by 1978, most of which ended up on the National Priorities List. Many in EPA sloughed these off as mere anecdotes, but Congress must have taken it seriously as RCRA was passed shortly afterward citing these reports in the Legislative History. I’ve printed two of the reports here. This first one deals with 1,511 drums of metal finishing wastes containing arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cyanide and phenols which were dumped on farmland killing cattle and destroying wildlife. Under the name Byron Salvage Yard this has since become a 20 acre Superfund site with an estimated clean-up cost of over $1 million. Posted 6/7/99.
February 3, Remarks by Mr. Roger Strelow Before The National Conference on Management And Disposal of Residues From The Treatment of Industrial Waste Waters. This is a speech I wrote for the Assistant Administrator which lays out the rationale and approach to hazardous waste management which we were pursuing before the passage of RCRA. It still reads good today. I especially like the line “Our environmental laws and regulations are like the walls of an ancient city, built in pieces by different people at different times for different purposes.” Posted 6/9/99.
1967 to 1970
1967-1970. Excerpt from Wikipedia article about Emissions Trading relating to early which led to the concept of “Cap and Trade.” Studies by Ellison Burton and myself of air pollution abatement strategies conducted at Ernst and Ernst for the National Air Pollution Control Administration (predecessor to the EPA Air Office.) Posted 1/14/09.