WASHINGTON,  D.C.  20460

April 2, 1997

Hon. Carol M. Browner
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Washington, DC 20460:

Dear Ms. Browner:

An apparent serious breech of government ethical standards has come to my attention. In light of the recent investigations into industry influence in EPA I felt you should be aware of this.

In August of last year an EPA employee was sent to Amsterdam at public expense to attend a conference on dioxin at which he presented an industry sponsored study which downplayed the need for EPA regulation of that industry. This in itself would be a serious violation even absent the fact that this employee had, in the past, received the benefit of many trips paid for by this same industry and, that the validity of the study has been challenged by environmental scientists.

The study, "The Relationship Between Chlorine in Waste Streams and Dioxin Emissions from Waste Combustor Stacks", by Rigo & Rigo Associates, Inc. concluded there was no connection between the chlorine content of the wastes in incinerators and the dioxin emissions. The study was paid for by the Vinyl Institute, a trade association whose members have a very strong vested interest in showing that the incineration of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other chlorinated products do not emit significant amounts of dioxin when incinerated so as to avoid regulation by EPA. Regulations prohibiting or severely limiting the incineration of ubiquitous PVC could be very expensive to industry especially if it results in curtailing the production of PVC and other chlorinated plastics.

The study was published by the Subcommittee on the Relationship Between Chlorine in Waste Streams and Dioxin Emissions From Combustors of the Committee on Industrial and Municipal Wastes of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). The list of Subcommittee members and the ASME members invited to review and approve the study, aside from the few government and academic reviewers consists of industry representatives and their engineering consulting firms, including:

Chemical Manufacturers and their trade associations

  • Union Carbide Corp.
  • Dow Chemical Company
  • Eastman Kodak Company
  • The Vinyl Institute
  • Chlorine Chemical Council
  • Oxychem
  • Geon Company
  • Incineration firms
  • Ogden Martin Systems Inc.
  • Dorr-Oliver
  • Enercon Systems
  • Rohm & Haas
  • Electro-Pyrolysis Inc.
  • Notably, there were no representatives of environmental organizations listed as reviewers! The representatives of those who profit from the incineration of PVC were present while the representatives of those who may suffer the consequences were not.

    Several of the industry reviewers are ex-EPA employees and, probably, some of the listed EPA employees will join them in the future.

    I have not gone into any detail on querying the reviewers but I am told that one of the listed EPA reviewers never saw the study before publication, and the one listed reviewer I spoke to said he only did a perfunctory review of the study and admitted he did not have the technical knowledge to judge it.

    The study was subsequently reviewed by environmental scientists who found it to be fallacious and invalid.

    The study was presented at the Dioxin 96 Conference, 16th Symposium on Chlorinated Dioxins and Related Compounds in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in August of 1996 by James D. Kilgroe of the EPA Office of Research and Development. Therefore giving the industry study the appearance of EPA approval and sponsorship.

    Mr. Kilgore has been the beneficiary of many trips paid for by industry to attend industry sponsored conferences. These include trips paid for by the above-mentioned ASME and the Integrated Waste Services Association whose members include: American Ref-Fuel, Foster Wheeler Power Systems, Montenay Power, Ogden Martin Systems, Reading Energy, Westinghouse Electric, and Wheelabrator Technologies, all incinerator related firms who would be severely adversely affected by EPA regulation of dioxin emissions from incinerators.

    The ethical issues of concern here are not limited to Mr. Kilgore's behavior but also the behavior EPA's so-called ethics officials who routinely approve such questionable travel. Indeed the very practice of allowing interested parties to pay for official government travel has been criticized by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In its decision in Sanjour v EPA the court, en banc, wrote:

    The danger in these transactions ... derives from the private source's interest in the future actions of the employee's agency. Provided that the reimbursing party has an interest in the actions of the reimbursed employee, the appearance of impropriety is the same regardless of the agency's approval or disapproval of the "reimbursement."
    Nor do we agree with the government's contention that stamping generous perquisites with official approval will alleviate any public perception that officials may be using their government offices for private gain.
    However, the most important ethical issue is, I believe, the ease with which EPA accepts self-serving industry sponsored "research" as the basis of its regulations.

    I have written at some length on this issue in my July 20, 1994 memorandum entitled The Monsanto Investigation, which showed how EPA's easy acceptance of fallacious self-serving studies by Monsanto on the health affects of dioxin resulted in untold hardship and suffering on the part of our Viet-Nam veterans exposed to dioxin from Monsanto's Agent Orange. Their suffering could be trivial, however, compared with the death and suffering of the American people from exposure to dioxin from the incineration of PVC which could ensue if EPA uncritically accepts the results of this self-serving industry study and it later turns out, just as it did in the Monsanto case, that the truth lies in the opposite direction.

    Sincerely yours,
    William Sanjour

    cc: EPA Inspector General

    William Sanjour's home page

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