Sunday, January 16, 2005

EPA launders campaign funds

WaPo is reporting that the Environmental Protection Agency's Inspector General will investigate whether there was undue industry influence when the agency crafted new rules for industrial laundries. At issue is a rule that would substantially benefit the Cintas Corporation whose CEO is a major Bush fundraiser and donor ($250,000). EPA wanted the industrial laundry industry to wring out towels used to wipe down printing presses and other venues before laundering them. This would reduce the chance of contaminating air and water with the chemicals. Trichloroethylene (TCE; see posts here and here) and perchloroethylene (PCE) are typical solvents used in these operations. These rules have been "debated" (read "regulations delayed") for decades. The Clinton administration finally proposed a rule to require that the towels be wrung out before laundering.

The laundry industry continued to oppose this and in November of 2003, the agency reversed its position. WaPo had first reported last May "that the EPA had provided industrial-laundry lobbyists with an advance copy of a portion of the proposed rule, which the lobbyists edited and the agency then adopted. The rule's opponents -- hazardous-waste landfill operators and manufacturers of paperlike towels in addition to environmental groups and labor -- said they were not given that opportunity."

At issue is whether EPA violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) which requires "equal and open public access to the advice and recommendations APA receives or solicits from outside parties." Preliminary inquiry by the Inspector General's Office found that some of EPA's explanations were not "satisfactory."

Satisfactory? To whom? For this administration what is satisfactory is that high achievers like Cintas should be able to dictate environmental protection regulations for everyone. After all, if you are good at making money, that's a sign you can call the shots. If that's the principle, who needs an investigation? Or maybe we need an investigation of the principle?