Smart discussion about toxics policy reform

Chem companies have nothing to hide*

*so long as they don’t have to show anything

By Leeann Brown, Press Associate, and Nils Bruzelius, Executive Editor

Who says you can never find a cop when you need one?

When Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN film crew was in Mossville, Louisiana, recently filming footage of 14 chemical plants that local activists blame for making area residents sick, none of the plant managers would appear on camera, and several directed CNN to speak with a local industry representative instead.

Dr. Gupta tried to get a look at the plants anyway. But when his unmarked CNN vehicle pulled into one plant’s parking lot, with EWG President Ken Cook along as a guest, it wasn’t minutes before a local police cruiser drove in and asked them what they were doing. Not long after that, when the CNN van parked on the grounds of a nearby fast food restaurant, another cruiser showed up and parked close by — and the officer didn’t seem to be there for coffee or anything else.

It’s not that the chemical makers had anything to hide, of course. Their designated spokesman, Larry DeRoussel, executive director of the Lake Area Industry Alliance, was quite willing to speak on camera. The plants, he said:

“… have no ill effects on the local community. There’s no connection between those health issues and the plants. And the plants have been there for many, many years.”

DeRoussel couldn’t or wouldn’t account for some things though – dioxin levels three times above the national average, unanswered complaints about contamination spewing beyond the plants’ “fence line” and documented safety incidents in Mossville’s history.

Gupta also sought an interview with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality in Baton Rouge to discuss the concerns of Mossville citizens and address the issue of unanswered questions. But when the TV correspondent asked to have two of the Mossville activists sit in (not even participate) on the interview, he was turned down. Who knows what those two middle-aged ladies might have been capable of?

The explanation from the DEQ:

“If we open it up to others who are interested, then it would have to be opened up to industry folks as well and they would probably want to have their lawyers represented as well. And we haven’t set that up. And we have — you know, our scientists who want to provide you information in an interview type of atmosphere.”

Their taxes pay his salary, but that’s no reason for this “public servant” to let the people of Mossville in the door, right?

Unfortunately, they’re accustomed by now to not having their questions answered. The plants in their town have a history of hiding evidence and facts from the public.

That’s why Sanjay Gupta’s two-part series, titled Toxic America, was so important. The two hour-long shows did a thorough job of exploring the threat of toxic contamination of the environment and our bodies, and the need for reform of the outdated and ineffective Toxic Substances Control Act.

It was fortunate for the Mossville plants that their own security and the local cops were there to shield them from those pesky camera crews. Don’t you hate it when all the facts come out?


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2 Responses to “Chem companies have nothing to hide*”

  1. Dorothy A says:

    No surprise. I am grateful for those who are not letting the companies off the hook. I hope we all support the work to get federal safety laws for the chemical companies passed.

  2. Alexandra says:

    I watched both of Gupta’s specials and was so glad to made them. It is important to get the word out.