How US chemical industry lobbying and cash defeated regulation in Trump era
By Tom Perkins | The Guardian | April 27, 2021
Read the full article by Tom Perkins (The Guardian)
“The nation’s top PFAS manufacturers executed a lobbying and campaign donation blitz in recent years as the federal government attempted to regulate the toxic compounds.
A Guardian analysis of campaign finance records found spending on PFAS issues jumped as lawmakers introduced over 100 new pieces of legislation in 2019 and 2020, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed strong new restrictions. Observers say the results are clear: industry’s congressional allies defeated nearly all PFAS legislation while the Trump EPA killed, watered down or slowalked new rules that never went into effect.
Spending is expected to remain high this legislative cycle as the Biden EPA has already advanced industry-opposed restrictions and Democrats have promised to re-introduce failed legislation and billions in revenue are at stake. Chemours, one top PFAS manufacturer, in fiscal year 2020 reported about $5bn in earnings, of which fluorinated chemicals represented about $2.2bn.
‘They see the chemicals as a profit center and don’t want to give up that product, and they oppose any regulation that could cut into their revenue,’ said said Erik Olson, a lobbyist with the Natural Resources Defense Council who has worked opposite the PFAS manufacturers.
PFAS, also called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of 4,500 fluorinated compounds that for decades have been used to make thousands of products water and stain resistant. They’re increasingly ubiquitous in the environment and human bodies because they don’t naturally break down, and they’ve been strongly linked to cancer, liver disease, kidney disease, birth defects and a range of other serious health problems.
The seven largest PFAS producers and their industry trade groups tallied at least $61m in federal political spending during 2019 and 2020, the bulk of which was directed at lobbying Congress and the Trump administration instead of campaign donations.
Loose campaign finance rules in the US make it difficult to know with precision exactly how much chemical companies spent lobbying on PFAS proposals and who they lobbied in Congress and at the EPA.
However, finance records broadly show that industry focused on killing multiple proposals that could’ve forced them to cover the astronomical costs for cleaning up widespread PFAS pollution. In other cases, proposed bills don’t present a serious threat to companies, and lobbying costs for those are largely ‘lobbyists running their meters to justify their existence’, said Scott Faber, a lobbyist with the Environmental Working Group, which advocates for stricter regulations.
The main tactic used by industry lobbyists is to employ sophisticated strategies out of the tobacco and oil lobbies’ playbook that aim to “create a cloud of doubt’’ over clear science that demonstrates the chemicals’ health threat, Olson said. The strategies have so far successfully delayed new regulations.
‘The longer they can stretch things out, the longer they continue making money,’ he said…”
This content provided by the PFAS Project.