Persuading legislators and policymakers to do the right thing takes persistence, hard work and solid facts. EWG has all three in spades. We employed them ceaselessly to make progress in 2011.
Our tenacity paid off. Once again, The Hill newspaper named Ken Cook one of the country's top grassroots lobbyists.
The recognition came on the heels of a victory for healthy food. After weeks of intense Congressional meetings and thousands of calls and emails from supporters like you, EWG successfully fought back efforts by the farm subsidy lobby to add a farm bill to the "super committee" deficit reduction package.
After decades of campaigning, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the "Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act," sponsored by EWG. This major victory for public health means that the toxic, endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A was barred from baby bottles and sippy cups in America's most populous state—the eighth largest economy in the world. After this victory, the chemical industry said it would no longer battle such measures, and in July 2012 the federal Food and Drug Administration barred BPA from baby bottles and children's cups.
In November 2011, we called all hands on deck to oppose the subsidy lobby's attempt to stuff the farm bill into the "super committee" deficit reduction proposal. We released a stream of reports drawing media attention to the machinations of the subsidy lobby and produced a commercial that was aired on CNN and in the Des Moines television market. Over a span of three weeks we called every Senate and House office and paid personal visits to 50 of them to express our opposition to the bill.
Our commissioned research on a proposal to offer farmers an entirely new and excessively generous crop insurance entitlement to protect against so-called "shallow losses" was a game-changer that effectively put a halt to the secret negotiations on the bill. Grist writer Tom Laskawy thanked EWG for making the secret farm bill public, and New York Times writer Mark Bittman called EWG "the best watchdog on misallocated subsidies."
More than 30,000 EWG supporters emailed their members of Congress to stop the secret farm bill.
EWG’s Farm Subsidy Database was updated in June with testimonials from nutritionist Marion Nestle and author Michael Pollan. The subsidy database continued to drive the national conversation about farm subsidies. Leaders of the Congressional agricultural committees and commodity organizations, including the National Cotton Council, acknowledged that the most egregious subsidies, so-called direct payments, had to go.
On April 13, we launched "Losing Ground," a report that chronicled how soil erosion was widely underestimated in the Midwest. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) cited the report at a Senate hearing on ethanol policy. The Losing Ground video has been viewed more than 45,000 times on YouTube, garnered more than 1,000 comments on The Huffington Post and shared on Facebook more than 1,000 times.
These perks for ethanol expired on Dec. 31, 2011. The most compelling moment in the tax credit's demise was an overwhelming vote (73-27) in the Senate to end it. The House voted 283 to 128 to bar the use of federal funds to subsidize ethanol infrastructure ⎯ the industry's Plan B. It has been downhill ever since for the corn and ethanol lobby. EWG has led efforts on Capitol Hill to end subsides for ethanol.
We worked with Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to support the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act, introduced in October, and organized California groups to support the bill.
In October, despite fierce opposition from the chemical industry, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation banning the hormone-disrupting chemical BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups sold in the state. EWG led the decade-long fight to pass the Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act (Assembly Bill 1319), originally co-sponsoring it with Breast Cancer Fund, Consumers Union, Black Women for Wellness and Physicians for Social Responsibility. The bill will also require manufacturers to use the least toxic alternative substance for these products.
In June, when Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu named a panel of experts to advise him on the natural gas extraction method known as fracking, EWG found out that six of the seven appointees had current financial ties to the natural gas industry. We pressed Chu to add representatives from communities affected by drilling in a letter joined by more than 100 national, state and local organizations from 13 states. EWG shepherded a similar letter to Secretary Chu signed by 60 elected officials from New York state. We also organized 28 scientists from around the country to write Chu to express concern about the panel's make-up.
In July, EWG published a report titled "Cracks in the Façade," which uncovered an EPA report that documented groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracking operations. The report was featured in The New York Times.
In December, we released "Drilling Double Speak," chronicling how gas drilling companies routinely warn their investors of a litany of possible disasters from hydraulic fracturing – such as leaks, spills, explosions, bodily injury and even death – but fail to mention these risks when pressing landowners to lease their land for drilling.
Responding to EWG's January 2011 report, "Cancer-causing Chromium-6 Pollution in U.S. Tapwater," the Environmental Protection Agency encouraged water utilities to test and treat for chromium-6. In February, EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson and EWG President Ken Cook testified at a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), complimented our drinking water work and urged, "Keep on doing what you're doing."
In February 2011, EPA announced plans to regulate perchlorate, a rocket fuel component that contaminates drinking water supplies across the country. Since our 2001 investigation of perchlorate contamination in California drinking water, EWG has advocated federal regulation of perchlorate, which disrupts thyroid hormones essential to brain development. We have urged OMB to support EPA's planned rules.
In January 2011, EPA granted a petition filed by EWG, Beyond Pesticides and the Fluoride Action Network to end the use of sulfuryl fluoride, an insecticide and food fumigant. According to EPA and our lawyer Perry Wallace, the agency's action was a first. Never before had EPA granted all objections to a petition under the "reasonable certainty of no harm" standard of the federal Food Quality and Protection Act. Prompted by our petition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reduced its recommended maximum level of fluoride in tap water from 1.2 to 0.7 parts per million, a 42 percent decrease.
In May, Rep. Jane Schakowsky (D-Ill.) introduced the Safe Cosmetics Act, calling for stricter federal regulation of cosmetic ingredients. In July 2011, we lobbied with actress Fran Drescher and met with 30 members of Congress to promote the Safe Cosmetics Act.
From the farm bill to BPA to corn ethanol – EWG was on Capitol Hill daily, making sure your voice was heard. And we weren't alone: we lobbied with activist Erin Brockovich and Academy Award nominees Josh Fox and Mark Ruffalo.
Number of contacts EWG made with federal legislators in 2011
Number of state legislatures where EWG testified
Number of bills EWG and EWG Action Fund are tracking this Congress