News Picks

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce calls for government probe into EPA

Saginaw News Headlines Saturday Feb 2, 2007 Chamber calls for probe.
Members upset over the Environmental Protection Agency's " accidental" release of a confidential memo regarding dioxin talks

While there are many issues of more significance than the Chambers latest salvo at a regulatory agency or its defense of Dow's chronic bad behavior, statements cannot go unchallenged. Terry Miller, Lone Tree Council Chair, did a great job responding in a My View column in the Saginaw News. There is however no Saginaw News Internet link to Terry's response.

The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce is asking the Inspector General to investigate how Lone Tree Council obtained an EPA memo; a memo which details Dow Chemical’s ongoing bad behavior, i.e., shoddy work plans, failure to follow regulatory guidelines, studies designed to create year long delays, maneuvering to go behind closed door, political strong arming… just to name a few. Go to left column, click on FOIA documents and go to Dow CA 0807 to view the document that has jacked the Chamber so out of a shape. The Chamber did not deny the veracity of the document, I think they were just upset the public found out about Dow’s bad behavior.

Snips from the news story are pasted below and followed by my comments and my different viewpoint in bold print.

1. Snip: Veronica Horn, chamber executive vice president, said the group backs transparency but that Dow and the EPA had agreed to confidential talks. The Chamber is wrong and their statement a deliberate attempt to mislead. The EPA memo is dated August 2007. Dow did not go into confidential negotiations until October 18 and were not ordered to go into those negotiations until October 11. At the time of this memo was written, EPA had not even ordered Dow to negotiate. The memo if anything was written in anticipation of EPA taking legal action against Dow under CERCLA for failing to act in accordance with their corrective action responsibilities under RCRA. See EPA press release for October 2007 announcing negotiations. In all the years and the many times Dow has forced this cleanup behind closed doors, even with the illegal consent order in 2002, which was made public, I've never seen the Chamber demand transparency or public accountability from Dow Chemical.

2. Snip: Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Robert VanDeventer and former Chairman Brian D. Eggers signed the letter. This would be the letter to the Inspector General asking for an investigation into how Lone Tree obtained the memo. It's interesting that Mr. Eggers, President of ATK Peerless failed full disclosure and did not divulge the significant income garnered by his company as a contract employee for Dow Chemical doing work on priority one and two properties along the river contaminated with dioxin.

3.Snip The Chamber letter also claims many memo comments "seem to be taken directly from the Lone Tree Council's Web Site." Never mind that none were identified or used as an example. Lone Tree Council's web site due to our lack of time has not had any information added to it in over a year. There are no documents on the LTC web-site from the EPA or anyone else. Visit our website:

4. Snip Mrs. Horn goes on to State : "Perhaps Lone Tree doesn't know what honoring a commitment means, but the business community certainly does." Would Dow Chemical be included in the " business community" that knows how to honor a commitment? Perhaps Mrs. Horn would then ask Dow Chemical to honor their commitment to the people of this watershed by honoring the RCRA corrective action license signed by Ms. Sue Carrington on Dow’s behalf in June of 2003. By doing so Dow clearly acknowledged its responsibility, its legal commitments to the residents of this watershed and state. Dow clearly agreed by signing this commitment to abide by the law and produce as part of the contract with the people of this watershed: 1. Scopes of Work 2. Interim Response Activities 3. Remediation 4.Open public process. This is a legal binding document which Dow has fought tooth and nail after signing. A contract which at the end of the day would address the cleanup of this watershed and demonstrate Dow Chemical comprehends what it means to honor a commitment. Or does Dow with the Chambers blessing get to walk away from that contract? Where's the honor in that?

5.Snip More from Ms. Horn : "Our position is this: We are very upset that this kind of activity has happened on more than one occasion," Horn said. "This is not helpful to either side, to the EPA or to Dow. Our concern is with the community and the perception of the community. It's not a perception it's a reality; this is a highly contaminated watershed and it is time the Chamber insist their premier member expedite cleanup instead of being an apologist/lobbyist for the company. While we must acknowledge that Dow is not the only contributor the Saginaw River contamination--- the company is responsible for the dioxin black eye that drew national attention to our community. There are more than two sides! It's not just the regulatory agencies and Dow involved-- Hello Chamber of Commerce-- there is the public! As for the Chamber being upset, let me submit the Chamber is more upset because the memo, like many others, reveals Dow Chemical to be very uncooperative, manipulative, political and unwilling to comply with the law. Please go to and click on FOIA documents to read other documents detailing the company’s failings.

6 Snip.Ms. Horn: "It's an attitude we feel that the EPA is taking against a company. We want a healthy Great Lakes and river system, but we also want a healthy economy." Attitude? It's called enforcing the law. Unlike the Chamber of Commerce, EPA and DEQ do not see a healthy eco-system and a healthy economy as being mutually exclusive. In progressive communities with progressive thinkers that archaic thinking is no longer acceptable. Many communities are seeing the economic benefit, job creation and long-term sustainability in cleaning up their contaminated waterways. And the healthy Great Lakes and river system are about public health and quality of life—more and more research is demonstrating the long-term impact of persistent organic pollutants on children. Quality of life matters! And it is defined by more than profit and money...........

7. Snip The chamber letter also raised concerns about other "accidental" releases of "confidential, internal documents to this environmental group. Each time this has happened it has resulted in sensational, negative headlines that in our opinion serve only to hinder negotiations between The Dow Chemical Company and either the (state Department of Environmental Quality) or, in this case, the EPA," it said. Like we control the headlines. The headlines and subsequent stories are not about the "release" of information but the content in the release. It’s what is revealed in these documents that so unnerves the Chamber of Commerce because it exposes the shenanigans of Dow Chemical. To suggest the public's access to information hinders negotiations one can only conclude the Chamber thinks the negotiations should be out of the public arena. We strongly disagree. Dow polluted this environment they don't own it. The most valuable stakeholder in this process is the people. We own the resource. The people and the process should be afforded the deference given Dow for the past 30 years. There is nothing about this cleanup that should be kept from the public, the property owners or the citizens who use these resources for recreation, food or their livelihood.

Lone Tree Council will continue to do what it always has....... Seek out public information and make it public when it comes to the resources and public health matters of our Saginaw Bay Watershed. Our resources, people and water are important as is the business of the people..... Everyone of us has an obligation to ensure a public and transparent process. It's how our democracy works best and it is what the taxpayers pay for from their elected officials and public agencies.

Best Regards,
Michelle Hurd Riddick
Lone Tree Council